Georgia’s Herschel Walker was the trendsetter in lengthy football recruiting battles

UGA's most famous football player, Herschel Walker, was the trendsetter for lengthy recruiting decisions almost 30 years ago (AJC)

Georgia coaching legend Vince Dooley had to laugh when asked about several of nation’s elite prospects holding out until far beyond signing day this year to announce college decisions. Dooley was a central figure in the lengthy recruiting battle that was the trendsetter nearly 30 years ago, when Herschel Walker delayed until April to sign with UGA.

“These young men didn’t wait as long as Herschel did,” Dooley said with a chuckle. “He signed on Easter and I’ll never forget that because I made a commitment to my wife to go see her brother in Boston and take all the children.”

“We were going to leave on a Thursday since the kids were out of school. But when the time came, I couldn’t leave. My wife said, ‘What do you mean you can’t leave?’ I told her Herschel hasn’t signed. She said ‘To heck with Herschel. Who does he think he is?’ I told her I don’t know who he thinks he is, but I know I can’t go. She was not happy, to say the least.”

Abandoned by his family, Dooley plodded into his football office on Easter morning. He was surprised to get a call from an assistant coach, who screamed with joy and relief that Herschel was finally ready to sign. Dooley immediately jumped into the car and sped over to Walker’s hometown of Wrightsville, Ga. But there was one problem.

“Ironically we had used all four of our visits, which was the NCAA rule at the time. We couldn’t be there when Herschel signed. So we had to wait outside in the yard. Then, after he signed, you could talk to him as often as you wanted. We went into the house and congratulated him.”

It proved to worthy of the wait. Six months later, Walker led Georgia to the 1980 national championship, and later won the 1982 Heisman Trophy.

Vince Dooley: It was a lonely but life-changing Easter on April 6, 1980 (AJC)

This year, tailback Bryce Brown of Wichita, Kan., who was ranked as the country’s No. 1 prospect by Rivals, postponed until March 16 to sign with Tennessee. Dooley was more familiar with tight end Orson Charles of Tampa, who deferred until March 6 to pick Georgia.

“I’m not surprised at anything anymore,” Dooley said. “For a lot of players, recruiting is tough on them. I know in Herschel’s case, he was so nice. I think that was one of the reasons he waited so long. He didn’t want to disappoint the colleges.”

“Of course, Herschel was actually the No. 1 player in the country at the time. I don’t believe Orson is that good. Nevertheless, [Charles] is pretty good. But that’s what still makes Herschel unique, in that respect. He held out longer than anybody, and he was No. 1.”

Dooley was asked if Herschel was his all-time favorite Georgia recruiting story? “It certainly wasn’t favorite with my wife, let’s put it that way,” Dooley said, again laughing.

MORE UGA RECRUITING …

Mark Richt finally gets his first 2010 commitment with Dalton DE Jalen Fields [Click here]

Georgia offers one of the nation’s top sophomores, Tucker linebacker James Vaughters [Click here]

62 comments Add your comment

FloridaDawg

March 23rd, 2009
7:13 am

I will never forget this: Back in 1980, when UGA players did their usual walk-round inside the Gator Bowl the Friday afternoon before the big game.
There was a very long line of autograph seekers in line to get Herschel’s autograph.
Half of the fans in line WERE Gator fans…..I asked one Gator fan why he would want HW autograph…he replyed, “I know a Heisman Trophy winner when I see one!”.
HW was only a freshman that day….

[...] Brown can’t hold a candle to Herschel Walker, in more ways than [...]

Harmon L. Wages (former sportscaster Atl.)

March 23rd, 2009
4:35 am

I was changing jobs in Atlanta from channel 5 to 11.Naturally I wanted to start off with a big story or ‘big bang’ if you will. Somehow, almost strangely I was led to Wrightsville, Ga to find out, “who is this phenom from class ‘A’ that everyone was saying was not human and Coach Dooley had made this recruit his once in a life time super-blue-chip recruit.

Oh yes, there was but one stop light and the older white farmers sitting around the little blue heater discussing the days’ farming activities; and Herschel Walker. When we arrived and went to the hard red clay sand spur laden track I asked the Coach, Phillips, ” where is Herschel?” He very simply smiled and replied, “Oh you’ll know, just watch this 440 relay”. My cameraman and I did and yes, “we knew”.

From dinner that night with 21 of his family (some steakhouse in town) Herschel and I, a former NFL running back, bonded for now over 30 years.From his career at Georgia, through the Donald Trump era, to his appearances on various TV shows I know this man.

To close which could be a large part of a book; this thought for you my reader. in my 62 years of life I have never felt that ’special feeling’ surrounding Herschel but once again. That was the day here in Jacksonville meeting Tim Tebow also as a high school senior.

I feel ‘honored’.

Harmon L. Wages
#-5

I feel truly blessed.

Harmon L. Wages

JustCallMeChamp

March 23rd, 2009
3:00 am

I’m a Florida Gator and I had the honor (?) of seeing Walker first hand. If there was ever a better college back, I sure haven’t seen him! I was sure glad to see him leave but I’m also glad I was able to witness his tremendous talent. I’ll be very surprised if this Bryce Brown is good enough to hold H. Walkers shoelaces!! Bo Jackson and of course Emmitt were tremendous, but HW was a one of a kind manchild and a beast!

DirtyDawg

March 23rd, 2009
12:27 am

Brown may be good, but he’ll never be as good as HW. Plus the last time I checked Tenn doesn’t open with Georgia and we don’t have any defensive backs named Bill Bates. The point is, Volman, no effin way your new toy will have as big a splash to open a career as Herschel…and I was there to rejoice in it. We really ‘raised a leg’ on you people that night. Not bad for just a ‘big, stiff, back’.

BumbleBee

March 23rd, 2009
12:18 am

Nice shirt Vince.

DAWG GONE IT

March 23rd, 2009
12:16 am

volman who’s gonna block for him??!!

Volman

March 23rd, 2009
12:14 am

Bryce Brown is better than Herschel, and will win the Heisman as a freshman. He won’t have to wait until his junior year. Yes BB is that gooooood. You’ll see Georgia fans!

DAWG GONE IT

March 23rd, 2009
12:14 am

Of course THEM herschel’s waited until april to sign….. it took THEM that long to makeup thier MIND’S!!!

Joe Sr.

March 23rd, 2009
12:08 am

A great, great article. It made my day. I’m going to cut this out of the newspaper and frame it. Those photos really bring back some wonderful memories of the good old days. Thanks, Mr. Carvell.