So of all the possible ways the Falcons can improve themselves this offseason, would signing a 48-year-old running back fit into the equation?
Yes, Herschel Walker says he could still play football. Yes, he says if he ever attempted a comeback in the NFL, it would be in Atlanta. But before you add one plus one and get 37 — like some in cyberspace are doing — the answer is no: He is not pursuing a return to football.
I bring this up because a headline on an AOL/Fanhouse story Monday read: “Herschel Walker, 48, Ponders NFL Comeback.” It might as well have read, “Elvis spotted at Smyrna Waffle House.” When I informed Walker of the headline, he laughed.
However, the former Georgia and NFL star, turned MMA fighter, didn’t laugh about his potential to still perform at a high level.
“I was asked [on a conference call earlier Monday] if I thought I could still play football, and my answer is yes,” Walker said by phone. “There’s no doubt in my mind. I couldn’t play every snap, but most running backs today don’t play every snap. I joked that when I turned 50, maybe I’ll comeback and be the George Foreman of the NFL. If I played for anybody, it would be for Atlanta, since that’s my home team.”
But is this something Walker actually is entertaining?
“No, it was just a question a reporter asked,” he said. “I haven’t had any thought about it. I’ve been into MMA now for a little over a year and I’m enjoying it. I’m watching [football] games but I haven’t had any thought about playing again.”
I’ll say this for Walker: While Evander Holyfield (also 48) is hurting his legacy by continuing to box, Walker hasn’t embarrassed himself in any of his ventures. He’s 1-0 in MMA and fights again Saturday night. As you can see by the picture, he’s also in pretty good shape. He says he weighs 219 to 220 pounds
“I’m in better shape now than when I played,” he said.
Walker lives in Dallas but he still maintains a home in the Atlanta area, his parents live in south Georgia and he owns a food services company in Savannah. While I had him on the phone, I figured I might as well ask him about a few other subjects:
♦On the recent struggles at Georgia: “One of the things that’s happened is we’ve been losing so many kids coming out of high school to out of state college. They’re not going to the University of Georgia, and I’ve been sort of hurt by it. I’ve talked to coach [Mark] Richt and I’ve spoken to Greg McGarity and I’ve told them I’d like to get involved and help them in any way I can. But I’m not sure what the NCAA would allow me to do.”
♦ On the NCAA: “Sometimes I just don’t understand what they’re doing. They let the kids at Ohio State play [in the Sugar Bowl] and suspend them next year [for selling merchandise] but they suspend A.J. Green for four games right away. They let Cam Newton play and he wins the Heisman and Auburn wins the national championship but they say they’re still investigating. That should be behind them by now. It’s not fair for me to judge what Cam Newton knew or didn’t know, but to me the NCAA should’ve dealt with it and moved on. They shouldn’t be able to go back now and do something. It seems like sometimes the NCAA says, ‘We’re just too busy now.’ They need swift justice.”
♦ On his next career: “I wouldn’t mind getting into a front office in the NFL. Maybe something in personnel, because I know talent and I know the business side of it. Maybe even be a commentator. It’s something I’ve turned down for a long time.”
♦ On the Falcons: “I thought they were going to the Super Bowl. That’s what I was telling everybody. I was shocked when they lost to Green Bay the way they did.”
By the looks of this picture from his last bout, I would put Walker on defense.
By Jeff Schultz