In 2008 ESPN released a list of the top 25 greatest college football players of all-time. In 2008 I felt that the list was full of inaccuracies, especially at #1. ESPN ranked the running back, Red Grange, as the greatest collegiate off all time. Why is this inaccurate? Because no one was, and is better than Herschel Walker. Period. Red Grange, Doak Walker, and Sammy Baugh are all one of the greatest players to ever play college football. They won championships, won awards, and could not be stopped by the common man. Who was the common man though? Well during this time period(1910s – 1960s), the all so famous “Jim Crow Laws” did not allow African-Americans to attend predominately White universities, let alone play football for them! The common man, the man that was in newspapers and in the media, was the white man. Red Grange, Sammy Baugh, and Doak Walker played football against other white men. Not Black men. Could this then mean that the level of competition was not as good as that of Herschel Walker? I’m going with “of course.” African-Americans did not just become good at football overnight, they have been excellent at football. The most athletic players in the United States have always been African-Americans, but they were not allowed to play sports against White Americans. So that in turn means that during the era of Red Grange the best players were not allowed on the field because of good Ol’ Jim Crow. After segregation was deemed illegal, and Black athletes were allowed to play with White athletes, sports has taken a whole new look which has the Black athlete dominating the major sports. Herschel Walker was one of those athletes, and the dominant player in college football history.
On September 7th, ESPN released its newest documentary “Herschel” which explained the rise of Herschel Walker and who he was as a person. Herschel explains how it felt to be picked on at school, to be bullied, and isolated from the students, teachers, and society. How one fight changed his life forever. Herschel became dedicated to his body and developed a warrior’s mentality to beat any obstacle that stood in his way. After a storied high school career where he rushed for over 3,000 yards as a senior, he went to the University of Georgia where he helped the team win a national championship, and won the Heisman trophy during his time in college. Herschel Walker rushed for over 5,200 yards and 49 rushing touchdowns. Herschel Walker was a stud from the moment he touched the ball in college. From their he went on to become a Legend. People were amazed at how big and strong(6-2 225lbs) and fast(4.3 forty time) he was. It was a Man playing among boys. The way Herschel man-handled defenders was un-real. It was not just the powerful stiff arm that was impressive, it was the way he would toy with defenders, tease them a little and then blow past them with his next gear. Herschel should have won the Heisman as both a freshman and a sophomore. 1,616 yards and 1,891 yards in both his freshman and sophomore years, but the voters would not give it to a sophomore, let alone a freshman. A freshman that helped his team win the national title his first year, and as a sophomore that helped win the second of three straight SEC titles.
Red Grange may have put football on the map during the 1920s, but that does not garner him “best ever” status. Their is no way that with the talent that was barred from the field Red would have enjoyed a spectacular career. These players that played football before integration should never be regarded as “best ever.” It is insulting to think that over 90 years of college football after Grange, that no one is greater than him. Football has been dominated by African-Americans once they were allowed to play football in a predominately White university. Their inclusion forced other schools to recruit African-Americans because if not, they would eventually become a losing program. The field changed then, more and more Black athletes began littering football fields taking the spots of once White athletes that all of a sudden were “not good enough” for an athletic scholarship. Thus Red Grange, Doak Walker, Sammy Baugh never did play against the best competition, as the best were not allowed to play. Herschel Walker did though, and destroyed it.
ESPN should be ashamed for putting not just Red Grange, but also Barry Sanders ahead of Herschel Walker. Barry may have rushed for the most yards in a season, but he did not run the ball like Herschel. Violent, fast, and destructive describes the way that Herschel ran the football. Barry was fast, and could move like a ping pong ball, but he did not win. His team may have been awful, but Georgia without Herschel would have been bad as well. Herschel Walker was the first football player to leave school early and enter the pros(United States Football League). If he was allowed he may have also been the ONLY player that would have been successful going from high school to the pros. Herschel was already physically and mentally prepared for the NFL, college was just a new toy for him to play with.