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
1:37 pm

and Tebow and Herschel will be linked once again this fall when Tebow becomes the SEC’s ALL TIME RUSING TOUCHDOWN leader. Simply amazing, considering he only played full time for 2 years (up to this point, he has 43, to Walker’s 49), and that one small issue of him being a quarterback.


March 23rd, 2009
1:25 pm

ALL YOU GT’ers might want to win 6 MORE IN A ROW BEFORE YOU TALK TRASH. Congrats, you won in 08, I guess that you think that 01-07 were just a bad dream??? Well, your streak will end at ONE. Remember, last years win ended 7 (SEVEN) straight by UGA. ONE win< SEVEN in a ROW. Thanks for playing, go finish your math homework!


March 23rd, 2009
12:41 pm

Hey Buzz anybody who has a negative thing to say about the greatest back in college football history is a lowlife queer-now get back in your mothers basement until the sun goes down.


March 23rd, 2009
12:18 pm

I graduate in 1980 from a small town in Florida, where a guy by the name of Melvin Simmons was about to sign with UGA too. He was a lightning fast runner in high school, and sports illustrated would later write that Herschel feared one player in his class might overtake him, and that guy was Melvin. It never happened, but in retrospect Melvin would have probably been a star on any other team. As a matter of fact he was rated higher as a rb in Florida coming out than was Mike Rozier, who also grad. in ‘80.


March 23rd, 2009
11:35 am

And you know what? He can still file for his amateur status back and use his last year of eligibility for you next season.

That would probably make the score something like 45-43.


March 23rd, 2009
10:38 am

I think he is a VERY classy guy, I just like to weed through HYPOCRISY! Especially when it comes to Vince Dooley… He had MORE recruiting violations than a supercomputer could count…


March 23rd, 2009
10:33 am

He was just waiting to see who came up with the best offer. Who does Dooley think he is kidding that he cared about the NCAA rules other than getting around them, and getting someone else investigate.


March 23rd, 2009
10:30 am

I remember all too well, that it came down to Georgia and Clemson. I had just walked in my apartment,and turned on “March Madness”, as there was a Western region game involving Clemson. When it broke for a commercial, the camera scanned the Clemson student/fan section,and they put a sign up that read, ” We love you Herschel”. I’ll never forget that. They wanted him BAD.


March 23rd, 2009
10:26 am

Paid or not, the dude was and is a classy guy who was awesom to watch!


March 23rd, 2009
10:19 am

Herschel was well worth the wait. I’ve been a Dawg fan since 1959, even before I became an alumnus. I’ve never seen a more dominant player on the college level than Herschel. The Dawg fans were lucky fans from 1980 to 1982.