UPDATED WITH COMMENTS FROM BILL HARTMAN. . . .
Some of you die-hard Georgia fans may have seen it before but I had never seen this vintage footage about Herschel Walker’s recruitment put together in February of 1980 by a young TV reporter named Bill Hartman, then with Atlanta’s Channel 5. Some of you will also recognize “Five News Scene” sports anchor (and Florida Gator/Atlanta Falcon) Harmon Wages.
In the two-part series, Hartman is in Wrightsville on National Signing Day to talk to Walker and his coaches about his recruitment when he stumbles upon Walker driving a shiny new black Pontiac Trans Am. Ever the inquiring journalist, Hartman immediately gets to the bottom of who bought the Trans Am. (Walker’s parents, Hartman determines). At that point, the Goal-line Stalker had not signed with Georgia and it was still a pretty intense recruiting battle between the Bulldogs and Clemson and others. Georgia Tech’s also involved, we learn.
A couple of really cool things caught my eye. Number one, you’ll note that Hartman interviews Georgia head coach Vince Dooley and a Georgia Tech assistant coach about Walker right there at Johnson County High School. Modern recruiting rules would never allow such a thing. Number two, the report, the second in a series, was three minutes and 12 seconds long. An entire sportscast doesn’t last that long these days.
As we all know now, Walker eventually signed with Georgia — but not until Easter Sunday — and went on to become arguably the greatest college running back of all time.
I talked to the now-retired Hartman (who still does some part-time work for Channel 5 during football season) about what he remembers about the footage. Not surprisingly, it’s the black Trans Am.
“The big thing that jumps to mind is we were standing on the square in Wrightsville and I was going to do what’s called a stand-up, where there’s a Johnson County sign or a courthouse or something behind me. And I looked across the way and I saw this Trans Am. And I said to my cameraman, ‘wow, that’s Herschel.’ It was evident that he was going to have to come to where we were. So we set up and timed it and waited for Herschel to drive by.
“The answer to that Trans Am is his mom and dad, both of whom had full-time jobs, bought that for him. And you know what, I swear, to this day — and maybe I’m the most naive person in the world — I don’t think Herschel got anything other than a job out of that. He worked at the local Ford dealership and I think that car was a used Trans Am that was on that lot. That’s my recollection of it. . . .
“That was, of course, shot on film, not videotape. And I remember heading back to Atlanta just kind of giddy with what we had.”
Without further adieu, from YouTube via “ghostoferkrussell,” I give you “Recruiting Herschel Walker.”