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.


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


March 23rd, 2009
10:11 am

He was such a NICE guy! That’s funny…. Herschel was counting the dollar bills from Alabama. He wanted to make sure that UGA had given more… Please Vince, try again!


March 23rd, 2009
10:10 am

I was in Knoxville in 1980 when Herschel singled-handedly squeezed the Big Orange as a freshman. The memories are sweet.


March 23rd, 2009
9:53 am

Thank you GATORZONE……….you sir are a real football fan……we tip our hat to Tebow also. Just a once in a life time player like Herschel……Ya’ll will miss him…we will not…GO DAWGS…….


March 23rd, 2009
9:42 am

I love Herschel! What a class act. He is the best on the apprentice! Great back, great man!
Kudos to Walker and all he brought to college football!


March 23rd, 2009
9:33 am

Herschel built his parents a new home behind their old one when he signed for 5 Mil with the N J Generals.
I bought the Trans Am myself and gave it to him. He deserved it…wish that I had given him a Vette but thought that would be a little too much. He told me that if I bought him the Trans Am, he would punish the Gators so bad that they would want to MOVE the game out of Jacksonville.
He did just that…and the Gators, did in fact, want to move the game to home and home.

C tha 1

March 23rd, 2009
9:29 am

The only TWO college running backs that can even come close in comparison to Hershel Walker are Bo Jackson and Adrian Peterson. Can’t comment on Bryce Brown because I haven’t seen him, but I’m not expecting greatness on that level either.


March 23rd, 2009
9:10 am

You’re too modest Harmon. You are far more than just a former Atlanta sportscaster. But you are dead-on about Herschel and Tebow, two hosses of a very rare breed.


March 23rd, 2009
8:53 am

What a sweet story. I near bout shed a tear.


March 23rd, 2009
8:38 am

Proof, DawgGoneIt, proof!!


March 23rd, 2009
7:28 am

And like USC…the Dawgs probably cheated to get him. Come on…How did Herschel really get that brand new Trans-Am and his mom a new house?

That would make a much better piece of journalism, don’t you think?