This past September the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced 94 players as nominees for enshrinement. In November the list was whittled down to 26 finalists. The inductees will be announced on Super Bowl Eve.
Herschel Walker was one of the 94 nominees, but did not make the cut as a finalist. Four running backs made the list: Roger Craig (83-93), Terrell Davis (95-01), Edgerrin James (99-09), and LaDainian Tomlinson (01-11).
Like Craig, Herschel (86-97) played in an era before many running backs were used as pass catchers. Craig played in the first pass-happy West Coast offense, but Herschel retired as one of the most prolific pass-catching running backs in NFL history despite playing in the more standard offenses of the day.
While Tomlinson had more pass receptions playing in a later era than Walker and Craig, Herschel still had more career receiving yards and touchdowns, and a higher average yards per catch than any of the finalist running backs. He also had the longest touchdown run, reception, and return of the group – all over 90 yards. In fact, Walker is the only player in NFL history to have a run, reception, and return of over 90 yards.
11 170 13684 145 85 634 4772 7.6 17 74 LT
11 146 12246 080 72 433 3364 7.8 11 60 EJ
12 187 08225 061 91 512 5859 9.5 21 93 HW
11 165 08189 056 71 566 4911 8.7 17 73 RC
07 078 07607 060 72 169 1280 7.6 06 35 TD
While Walker’s NFL rushing and receiving total is comparable to Tomlinson, James, and Craig, what sets him apart are his 5084 return yards. The four finalists had a total of 43 return yards between them.
18456 0000 0 00 18456 LT
14084 5084 2 94 18168 HW
15610 0000 0 00 15610 EJ
13100 0043 0 00 13143 RC
08887 0000 0 00 08887 TD
There is no doubt Tomlinson is worthy of enshrinement, despite the fact he never played in a Super Bowl. Craig played with Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice. James played with Peyton Manning, Davis played with Elway. Herschel played with young Troy Aikman - before the QB had matured into an All-Pro. Then Walker bounced around to four other average teams – always producing, always contributing. He was still able to compile the third highest combined yards total in NFL history.
These NFL numbers above do not include the 7000 plus yards Herschel gained in the USFL. Add these and Walker has gained more yards than any other player in pro football history.
Like Gale Sayers, Terrell Davis’ injury-plagued career is a special case. But if so, why isn’t Herschel’s all-around career also considered as well?
The answer is obvious: the NFL is blocking Herschel for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his years as the face of the rival USFL. While former USFL stars Steve Young, Jim Kelly, and Reggie White had no problem making the HOF, Walker remains blocked for being the first high-profile collegian to sign with the USFL – and doing so as a junior. For a place that calls itself the Pro Football Hall of Fame, this is injustice.
The other finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame: coaches Don Coryell and Jimmy Johnson. Players Morten Anderson, Steve Atwater, Tony Boselli, Isaac Bruce, Brian Dawkins, Alan Faneca, Chris Hinton, Torry Holt, Joe Jacoby, Mike Kenn, Ty Law, John Lynch, Clay Matthews, Kevin Manae, Karl Mecklinberg, Terrell Owens, Jason Taylor, Hines Ward, Kurt Warner, and Darren Woodson.
Like life, the NFL ain’t fair. The HOF elects Super Bowl Champions, good soldiers, and players from big cities. They exclude players from losing teams, smaller markets, and those who go against the grain. Owens’ numbers are almost as stupefying as Herschel’s, but that’s not my fight. Owens was the complete opposite of the hardworking, great teammate Walker. Owens was a brash loudmouth. Johnson was a flash in the pan compared to Coryell. Redskin Jacoby will no doubt edge Falcon Kenn. The NFL loves pretty boy Taylor and grinders like Boselli and Ward, compared to small market receivers Holt and Bruce.