Herschel I: The Writer
The October 1982 issue of Guideposts featured Herschel Walker on the cover. At the time, he was the most well-known college football player in America. The feature article in the issue was written by Walker himself, and after finding the magazine on eBay, I’ve transcribed the entire piece for reading below. Walker talks about the success he had achieved, the success he hoped to achieve, and how he came close to quitting until he found inspiration in an unlikely place.
Football.
In Georgia, this time of year means football. It seems everyone is a football fan, that every team is someone’s favorite. In Athens, 60,000 students, parents, alumni and just plain fans will pack the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, wearing red, and whopping and hollering for their Georgia Bulldogs.
I’m the Bulldogs’ running back, and I can only hope that, win or lose, this season will not be like last.
It’s not as if our record last year was bad — we won 10 games and lost only two. For the second straight year, we were Southeastern Conference Champions and ranked among the top 10 teams in the country. No, it wasn’t the wins or losses at all that made last season so memorable. It was the way I nearly quit being a part of autumn in Georgia.
On the first day of football practice last falls, the Georgia Bulldogs were the toast of the state. We’d gone through the 1980 season undefeated and beaten Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, 17-10. Everywhere in Georgia, bumper stickers and T-shirts and Frisbees proclaimed the rallying cry of the previous season — “How ‘bout them Dawgs?” We had won our last 13 games in a row, and hardly a fan could be found who didn’t think we’d win another 12 in a row and the national championship again.
It had been a good year for me too. I had run for more yards than any freshman in the history of college football, and had finished as a runner-up for the prestigious Heisman Trophy, given each year to the nation’s best college football player. I was just thankful that God have given me a gift — a strong body and a strong mind — and a chance to user that gift as best I could. Just being at the state university was special for me — it was an opportunity Mama and Daddy only dreamed of for any of their seven children. But even as practice began, I could sense that there wasn’t enough anymore. Last year was good, so this year would have to be better. For all our fans, nothing else would do.
I was in line to register for classes with the other students a few days before our first game when someone I didn’t even know patted me on the back. “We can’t lose this year!” he stated emphatically to this buddy as he turned to me. “Not with ol’ Herschel out there for us.” I suppose it was intended as a compliment, but the comment left me strangely uneasy. The responsibility that was being heaped on my shoulders scared me.
But out on the field, with a football tucked under my arm, I just tried to do what I did best — run toward the goal line. We beat Tennessee the first week-end of the season, 44-0, an outstanding team performance. The bell on top of the campus chapel rang out 14 times to celebrate our 14-game winning streak, now the longest in college football.
It rang 15 times the next week after we struggled to a 27-13 win over California. I gained 167 yards rushing, but had fumbled once, just part of a team effort not quite up to par.
That’s when the whispering started. It was isolated at first, a few inquiring people wondering if anything was wrong. Why hadn’t I broken a long touchdown run yet? Was I worried that my play might jeopardize the winning streak? I was more confused, really. I had gained 328 yards in two wins. Was that so bad?
Coach Vince Dooley worked us hard as we prepared for the third game of the season against Clemson University. This year the game, one of the fiercest college rivalries in the South, would be in Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, nicknamed “Death Valley” because of the difficulty opposing teams have winning there. Still, we were favored to win.
We won the coin toss, received the kickoff and began moving the ball up the field. I picked up eight yards running around left end, another four slashing right. A pass play netted us another first down, and I carried twice more.
On second down, from the Clemson 13-yard line, I took a pitchout and headed left. Just as I was about to cut up-field toward the goal line, a Clemson lineman hit my arm. The ball squirted loose, and a pile of orange jerseys were immediately on top of it. I’d just fumbled away a good scoring chance.
I fumbled again in the second quarter to set up a Clemson Field goal, but by that time our whole team had begun to unravel. Perhaps it was the noisy Clemson fans or just a bad day, but nine times that afternoon we lost the ball on fumbles or interceptions. We lost that game too, 13-3. The bell would not ring that night on the University of Geogria campus.
The locker room was somber as I shuffled in. Reporters surrounded us, probing for reasons for the loss. Herschel, what’s wrong? Why aren’t you playing like last year? Herschel, are you still happy at Georgia?
The Clemson defeat and the questions dogged me into the next week. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t avoid it. One afternoon, as I walked to practice, two guy stopped me. “Hey, Herschel, how come you’re not running like last year?” I shrugged, and mumbled something about doing my best and walked on. Though I had scored only one touchdown, compared to the give I’d scored after three games last season, I’d run for more yards. Yet, instead of “How ‘bout them Dawgs?” everyone seemed to be asking, “What’s wrong with Herschel?”
I walked on beneath the campus trees, thinking of the criticisms that had threaded their way in from every corner of Georgia, beginning to believe them myself. Maybe I have lost it, I thought. I’d even heard of bumper stickers that said, “Herschel Who?” The criticisms and doubts hurt,more than I cared to admit.
I dragged through practice halfheartedly, my mind focused more on what I would tell Coach Dooley than on how to run against South Carolina, our next opponent. I’d decided it might be easier to just quit, to forget the pressure and questions, the pain that came when your best effort wasn’t good enough.
I also decided to wait until the next morning to say anything about quitting. As I dragged myself back to my room that night, I’d never felt so low and alone. Inside I flipped on a small light, and flopped down on my bed. “It’s not fair,” I said out loud. “Why is everybody on my case? Why can’t I just be me?”
That’s when I caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye — the picture I had hanging over my bed, a picture of Jesus. It looked different this time, somehow. As I stared into Christ’s face, I couldn’t help but think about the stories of His life I’d learned back in Sunday school in Wrightsville, Georgia.
Maybe it was the recollection of those Bible stories that helped me realized that was different. In Jesus’ face I saw for the first time an enormous courage. I saw a courage born in His 40-day struggle in the wilderness, and tested day in and day out by people who laughed at Him and threatened to arrest Him or stone Him. I saw the courage He showed on the final night in Gethsemane, when terrible agony forced huge drops of blood from His brow. In Jesus’ face was the courage of One Who kept on going no matter what the hardship. There was no quitter in that picture.
For the longest time I just looked, drawing strength from the picture. And when I got to thinking again why I needed that strength, I realized I’d found the example I needed to follow. Whether the criticisms of me had been fair or not, it didn’t matter, Herschel Walker would be no quitter, either.
I was the first one at practice the next day, attentively listening to the coaches’ instructions. On the field, I ran with reckless abandon. No, the questions wouldn’t stop, and the Clemson game would continue to be talked about. The fans were still expecting a lot from me. But I knew now how to cope with the pressure. By standing up to it, just as Jesus had, not running from it. I had a job to do!
That Saturday we defeated South Carolina, 24-0; I gained 176 yards and scored two touchdowns. We didn’t lose again in the regular season; we won the conference title and were ranked second — behind Clemson.
Now, it’s another football season at Georgia. Expectations are still high. And I’m determined to make it my best ever. I think I’ve got a good start because of what I learned last season: that no matter what job you do, there’s Someone Who understands the pressure and responsibilities you face, Who’s been through it Himself. Jesus will give you the strength and courage to keep going. Look for Him. And you’ll see it, too.
photo via fullmetalstarterjacket

Herschel I: The Writer

The October 1982 issue of Guideposts featured Herschel Walker on the cover. At the time, he was the most well-known college football player in America. The feature article in the issue was written by Walker himself, and after finding the magazine on eBay, I’ve transcribed the entire piece for reading below. Walker talks about the success he had achieved, the success he hoped to achieve, and how he came close to quitting until he found inspiration in an unlikely place.

Football.

In Georgia, this time of year means football. It seems everyone is a football fan, that every team is someone’s favorite. In Athens, 60,000 students, parents, alumni and just plain fans will pack the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, wearing red, and whopping and hollering for their Georgia Bulldogs.

I’m the Bulldogs’ running back, and I can only hope that, win or lose, this season will not be like last.

It’s not as if our record last year was bad — we won 10 games and lost only two. For the second straight year, we were Southeastern Conference Champions and ranked among the top 10 teams in the country. No, it wasn’t the wins or losses at all that made last season so memorable. It was the way I nearly quit being a part of autumn in Georgia.

On the first day of football practice last falls, the Georgia Bulldogs were the toast of the state. We’d gone through the 1980 season undefeated and beaten Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, 17-10. Everywhere in Georgia, bumper stickers and T-shirts and Frisbees proclaimed the rallying cry of the previous season — “How ‘bout them Dawgs?” We had won our last 13 games in a row, and hardly a fan could be found who didn’t think we’d win another 12 in a row and the national championship again.

It had been a good year for me too. I had run for more yards than any freshman in the history of college football, and had finished as a runner-up for the prestigious Heisman Trophy, given each year to the nation’s best college football player. I was just thankful that God have given me a gift — a strong body and a strong mind — and a chance to user that gift as best I could. Just being at the state university was special for me — it was an opportunity Mama and Daddy only dreamed of for any of their seven children. But even as practice began, I could sense that there wasn’t enough anymore. Last year was good, so this year would have to be better. For all our fans, nothing else would do.

I was in line to register for classes with the other students a few days before our first game when someone I didn’t even know patted me on the back. “We can’t lose this year!” he stated emphatically to this buddy as he turned to me. “Not with ol’ Herschel out there for us.” I suppose it was intended as a compliment, but the comment left me strangely uneasy. The responsibility that was being heaped on my shoulders scared me.

But out on the field, with a football tucked under my arm, I just tried to do what I did best — run toward the goal line. We beat Tennessee the first week-end of the season, 44-0, an outstanding team performance. The bell on top of the campus chapel rang out 14 times to celebrate our 14-game winning streak, now the longest in college football.

It rang 15 times the next week after we struggled to a 27-13 win over California. I gained 167 yards rushing, but had fumbled once, just part of a team effort not quite up to par.

That’s when the whispering started. It was isolated at first, a few inquiring people wondering if anything was wrong. Why hadn’t I broken a long touchdown run yet? Was I worried that my play might jeopardize the winning streak? I was more confused, really. I had gained 328 yards in two wins. Was that so bad?

Coach Vince Dooley worked us hard as we prepared for the third game of the season against Clemson University. This year the game, one of the fiercest college rivalries in the South, would be in Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, nicknamed “Death Valley” because of the difficulty opposing teams have winning there. Still, we were favored to win.

We won the coin toss, received the kickoff and began moving the ball up the field. I picked up eight yards running around left end, another four slashing right. A pass play netted us another first down, and I carried twice more.

On second down, from the Clemson 13-yard line, I took a pitchout and headed left. Just as I was about to cut up-field toward the goal line, a Clemson lineman hit my arm. The ball squirted loose, and a pile of orange jerseys were immediately on top of it. I’d just fumbled away a good scoring chance.

I fumbled again in the second quarter to set up a Clemson Field goal, but by that time our whole team had begun to unravel. Perhaps it was the noisy Clemson fans or just a bad day, but nine times that afternoon we lost the ball on fumbles or interceptions. We lost that game too, 13-3. The bell would not ring that night on the University of Geogria campus.

The locker room was somber as I shuffled in. Reporters surrounded us, probing for reasons for the loss. Herschel, what’s wrong? Why aren’t you playing like last year? Herschel, are you still happy at Georgia?

The Clemson defeat and the questions dogged me into the next week. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t avoid it. One afternoon, as I walked to practice, two guy stopped me. “Hey, Herschel, how come you’re not running like last year?” I shrugged, and mumbled something about doing my best and walked on. Though I had scored only one touchdown, compared to the give I’d scored after three games last season, I’d run for more yards. Yet, instead of “How ‘bout them Dawgs?” everyone seemed to be asking, “What’s wrong with Herschel?”

I walked on beneath the campus trees, thinking of the criticisms that had threaded their way in from every corner of Georgia, beginning to believe them myself. Maybe I have lost it, I thought. I’d even heard of bumper stickers that said, “Herschel Who?” The criticisms and doubts hurt,more than I cared to admit.

I dragged through practice halfheartedly, my mind focused more on what I would tell Coach Dooley than on how to run against South Carolina, our next opponent. I’d decided it might be easier to just quit, to forget the pressure and questions, the pain that came when your best effort wasn’t good enough.

I also decided to wait until the next morning to say anything about quitting. As I dragged myself back to my room that night, I’d never felt so low and alone. Inside I flipped on a small light, and flopped down on my bed. “It’s not fair,” I said out loud. “Why is everybody on my case? Why can’t I just be me?”

That’s when I caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye — the picture I had hanging over my bed, a picture of Jesus. It looked different this time, somehow. As I stared into Christ’s face, I couldn’t help but think about the stories of His life I’d learned back in Sunday school in Wrightsville, Georgia.

Maybe it was the recollection of those Bible stories that helped me realized that was different. In Jesus’ face I saw for the first time an enormous courage. I saw a courage born in His 40-day struggle in the wilderness, and tested day in and day out by people who laughed at Him and threatened to arrest Him or stone Him. I saw the courage He showed on the final night in Gethsemane, when terrible agony forced huge drops of blood from His brow. In Jesus’ face was the courage of One Who kept on going no matter what the hardship. There was no quitter in that picture.

For the longest time I just looked, drawing strength from the picture. And when I got to thinking again why I needed that strength, I realized I’d found the example I needed to follow. Whether the criticisms of me had been fair or not, it didn’t matter, Herschel Walker would be no quitter, either.

I was the first one at practice the next day, attentively listening to the coaches’ instructions. On the field, I ran with reckless abandon. No, the questions wouldn’t stop, and the Clemson game would continue to be talked about. The fans were still expecting a lot from me. But I knew now how to cope with the pressure. By standing up to it, just as Jesus had, not running from it. I had a job to do!

That Saturday we defeated South Carolina, 24-0; I gained 176 yards and scored two touchdowns. We didn’t lose again in the regular season; we won the conference title and were ranked second — behind Clemson.

Now, it’s another football season at Georgia. Expectations are still high. And I’m determined to make it my best ever. I think I’ve got a good start because of what I learned last season: that no matter what job you do, there’s Someone Who understands the pressure and responsibilities you face, Who’s been through it Himself. Jesus will give you the strength and courage to keep going. Look for Him. And you’ll see it, too.

photo via fullmetalstarterjacket

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    One of the best
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  8. fullmetalstarterjacket said: Hey-o! I actually posted some of the pages from this, and the mag you have is probably the one I stole the scan of from eBay lololololololololol
  9. stevenlebron posted this


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