S2 E7 | Herschel Walker
Football legend Herschel Walker is about two things: his love for his country and for the state of Georgia. The high school and college football star grew up one of seven children in a blue-collar family in Wrightsville, GA. During an interview on this week’s “Love & Respect with Killer Mike,” the U.S. Senate hopeful jokes that his Georgia roots were more than just humble. He says, “I’m from an area that had nothing. I tell people I couldn’t afford the ‘or’ in poor, I was po’.” But an emphasis on education and work ethic helped this hometown hero ascend into the halls of Georgia sports history and, he hopes, into the U.S. Senate later this year.
That emphasis on education is one major component of Walker’s campaign. He sees education as a major need for all kids, regardless of their race. He says, “One of the things we gotta do is, we got to educate our kids. Right now, we’re not teaching our kids what we need to teach them by getting them into schools where they can get the proper education.” Despite his prior comments on critical race theory, the Republican nominee insists that teaching Black history is teaching American history, and it’s what makes the U.S. unique and “great.” He says, “I want to teach kids about all history of the United States of America … We’re the greatest country in the world because there’s a mixture that has come together.” The father of one even goes as far to say that he saw gaps in his own son’s education about Black history and in spite of what others may think about him, he emphatically supports education.
Walker feels so strongly that education is key because he credits his own success to his schooling, along with his athletic abilities. The 1982 Heisman Trophy winner is quick to point out that due to growing up poor, he never dreamed college was an option for him. He shares, “When I decided to go to college … I was going to the military, I wanted to be a marine. Coming from Wrightsville, GA, no kid dreamed that they can go to college, that they can play football.” Even though he was a gifted athlete, the former USFL and NFL athlete didn’t start playing the sport until he was a teenager. But after he started playing, he vowed that he was going to put in the hard work necessary to make it to college and, if possible, go all the way to the “pros.”
The pros are exactly where the University of Georgia athlete landed, breaking records and earning multiple collegiate honors. In his junior year of college, he opted to play in the USFL with the New Jersey Generals, which is where he met Donald Trump, who owned the team from 1984 to 1985. Walker counts the former president and controversial figure as a friend and even shares that he saw a potential presidency for the hotelier back in the 1980s. He says, “In [a] 1983 [interview], we were walking down the street and I said, ‘You know, this guy can be president of the United States.’” The former running back goes on to say that even though the 45th president has said some “crazy things,” he loves his country and is willing to “fight for America.” Trump is among several conservatives who endorsed the football hero as the Georgia senate Republican nominee.
The Georgia senate race will be decided in November. The one-time Dallas Cowboys player is running against Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock, another native Georgian who won the seat in a special election in 2021. Whether he wins or not, Walker maintains that he has already achieved more than he ever thought possible while growing up and he chalks that up to hard work. He says, “I tell people I’ve had the American dream. Yeah, it’s hard, things are tough, it ain’t gonna be easy. You just gotta be willing to work, put your nose down and keep moving forward.”