SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Herschel Walker was well known throughout Georgia before he played a game for the Bulldogs. It took one college game for him to gain national attention.
Georgia trailed Tennessee by 12 points late in the third quarter when Walker took a pitchout at the Vols' 16-yard line, cut up the middle and ran over future Dallas Cowboys teammate Bill Bates en route to the first of his two touchdowns in a 16-15 victory.
That season, Walker ran for more than 200 yards four times and finished with 1,616 yards, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting, as he led a Georgia squad that had been 6-5 a season earlier to a 12-0 record and the national championship.
"I thought he would be great. I didn't think he'd be that great that soon," said his coach, Vince Dooley, now Georgia's athletics director. "I didn't know he'd be such an incredible back in his first game."
Walker's place in college football history will be confirmed today when he and 21 others are enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Among the other inductees are Alabama's John Hannah, Oklahoma's Greg Pruitt, Iowa's Chuck Long, Notre Dame's Ross Browner and UCLA's Billy Kilmer.
Walker said joining the Hall of Fame honors all those he played with at Georgia, and that he learned the importance of teamwork during his freshman season.
"We went undefeated because we worked together, we tried together. Notre Dame was probably more talented than we were, but we worked together," he said.
The Bulldogs beat the Irish 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl that season as Walker rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite rushing for 3,167 yards at Johnson County High School as a senior in 1979, Walker said he didn't expect to have the kind of college freshman season he had.
"I was just lucky to arrive there at that time I did," he said.
Dooley, however, said Walker was a one-of-a-kind back.
"He had a world-class speed and strength," Dooley said. "I've seen others who had both of those. But Herschel had mental toughness and self-discipline. I've never seen any other back combine those qualities like he did."
Walker rushed for 5,259 yards in three seasons at Georgia, leading the Bulldogs to a 33-3 record as he set 11 NCAA, 16 SEC and 41 Georgia records, before jumping to the fledgling United States Football League.
"If he had stayed around for a fourth season, he would have put the NCAA rushing record out of reach. There's no doubt in my mind," Dooley said.
Ron Dayne set the record at Wisconsin last season with 6,397 yards in four seasons, or 1,138 yards more than Walker had in three seasons.
Some say Walker had a disappointing pro career, but the usually humble Walker is quick to point out that if the 5,562 yards he rushed for in three seasons with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL -- including 2,411 yards in 1985 -- were added to the 8,225 yards he rushed for in 12 seasons in the NFL, he would be among the all-time rushing leaders.
As it stands, his 18,168 all-purpose career yards put him fourth on the NFL's list.
Players and coaches who will be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame today:
Johnny Bailey, Texas A&I; Ross Browner, Notre Dame; Bill Cooper, Muskingum; Bill Crawford, Franklin; Chuck Dicus, Arkansas; Chris Gilbert, Texas; John Hannah, Alabama; Billy Kilmer, UCLA; Steve Kiner, Tennessee; Willie Lanier, Morgan State; Chuck Long, Iowa; Frank Loria, Virginia Tech; Joe Palumbo, Virgina; Greg Pruitt, Oklahoma; Paul "Tank" Younger, Grambling State; Herschel Walker, Georgia; Ed White, California.
Jerry Claiborne, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Kentucky; Jim Young, Arizona, Purdue, Army; Darrell Mudra, Adams State, North Dakota State, Arizona, Western Illinois, Florida State, Eastern Illinois, Northern Iowa; Ron Schipper, Central College; Frank "Muddy" Waters, Hillsdale, Saginaw Valley State, Michigan State.
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