A Day in the Life of Herschel Walker - In Our Nation's Capital
Former Georgia Bulldog Legend Is An Advocate of P.E. & Fitness
When any sports fan conjures up an image of football legend and 1992 U.S. Winter Olympian Herschel Walker (‘ole #34), you remember him dashing and crashing through one offensive line after another -- and, then being dragged to the ground by at least two or three defenders. That’s the Herschel Walker story -- whether it was on Friday nights in high school, Saturday afternoons in college, or on Sundays as a professional. Walker’s well-chiseled physique – the result of thousands of sit-ups and push-ups over the years – is also a clear and vivid image in the minds of those who witnessed this physically-gifted man display his vast talents on the gridiron. To this day, Walker, the winner of the 1982 Heisman Trophy, looks the same as when he stepped onto the University of Georgia campus more than 30 years ago as a freshman from Wrightsville, Georgia. Nowadays, his hair is as jet black as it was when he was a teenager and he appears to be as physically fit as he was during his playing days in the now-defunct United States Football League (USFL) and later in the National Football League (NFL). He truly is the real deal. He talks the talk and walks the walk.
Right now, Walker is in the food business. He’s the chairman and CEO of H. Walker Enterprises which owns and operates two brands – Herschel’s Famous 34 Appetizers and Renaissance Man International, LLC. Curious onlookers are encouraged to check out his business’s website – www.herschelsfamous34.com. While he’s based in Dallas, Texas, he’s always ‘on the go’ – crisscrossing the country establishing new accounts and promoting his brand to prospective buyers. Just as he was a success on the football field, he has been equally as successful off the field. The only difference is that you can read about Walker’s accomplishments in the business section of the newspaper and not just in the sports section. He has said that “if you eat a chicken wing or a chicken tender in Las Vegas as an appetizer, I probably supplied it.”
While football will always be a prominent part of his life, his existence has taken on the appearance of an impressive stock portfolio – balanced and diversified. In addition to being a legendary athlete and a very successful (and respected) businessman, Walker is a husband, father, weekend warrior (an avid cyclist, runner, and martial arts participant), and an advocate of physical education in schools.
In recent years, Walker has taken time out of his hectic schedule to travel to Washington, D.C. one day a year to meet with members of Congress to share his concerns about declining levels of physical fitness in American children. He openly admits the foundation of his personal and professional success can be attributed to daily P.E. classes back in Wrightsville.
“As a young child, I was timid, shy, and overweight – but once I learned the importance and fun of physical fitness, I gained personal confidence in my ability to interact with others and achieve academic success in the classroom,” recalled Walker. In the end, he graduated from high school as the valedictorian – and he credits his exposure to P.E. as the foundation of his success.
Nearly every year since 2001, Walker has been part of a delegation of more than 100 people who travel to our nation’s capital each spring for SGMA’s National Health Through Fitness Day. Organized by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, two of the legislative goals of National Health Through Fitness Day are to lobby for the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) and the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Bill. PEP provides grants to local school districts and community based organizations to help purchase equipment and train teachers for health and wellness-based physical education programs while the PHIT Act would change current federal tax law to allow for the deduction or use of pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities.
“We’re talking about health care when we talk about P.E. classes and physical activity,” said Walker. “Obesity is now a serious problem. If we don’t stop obesity, it will become an epidemic. People need to realize that fitness keeps you young and vibrant.”
Speaking of health care and physical activity, Walker encourages the employees of this company to spend at least an hour a day to engage in exercise and physical activity. That way of thinking is in line with the logic of the PHIT Bill.\
Right now, only about 25% of U.S. schoolchildren have a daily PE class. Only one state, that being Illinois, requires daily PE from kindergarten through 12th grade. The lack of daily PE is evident on the expanding waistlines of American children. That’s a problem – if you ask ‘ole #34 – which needs to be addressed.
“My life wouldn’t be where it is today without that P.E. class,” noted Walker. “P.E. in schools is as important as the other subjects. P.E. needs to be considered a real class. Without it, we are doing a disservice to our children. I’d like to see physical education as a priority in schools. I travel to Washington each year to speak out for those whose voices can’t be heard. We need to work with school systems to put P.E. in the classroom.”
Each spring, Walker is in Washington, D.C. where he meets, face-to-face, with a number of U.S. Senators and Representatives. Walker looks every legislator in the eye, addresses the issue at hand, and asks for their help with the PEP Bill. Every legislator pledges their support for ‘ole #34 and say they will support the legislation. And, they do.
Since the PEP Bill was passed by Congress in 2001, nearly 900 PEP grants – totaling more than $600 million -- have been awarded across the country. Without a doubt, a large part of the credit for these grants can be given to Walker’s annual treks to Capitol Hill and those legislators who grant him an audience when he is ‘on the Hill.’
In recent years, U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) indicated that he is ready to pledge his total support to Walker and the physical fitness cause. U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (D-GA) was equally supportive of Walker’s stance.
“People have to stand for more than just football or a sport,” summarized Walker. “I’m just doing my part by coming to Washington, D.C. each year.”
When Walker walks along the halls of Congress – in and out elevators, up and down staircases, back and forth along the office corridors – he gets the attention of everyone who sees his unmistakable gait. And when Herschel Walker strides into a room to speak, people listen….and when Herschel Walker walks, people are quick to follow…….and, when Herschel Walker runs, people (still) cheer – for ‘ole #34.
The author of this story is Mike May, director of communications for the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. May, a 1985 graduate of the University of Florida, attended UF while Walker was enrolled at the University of Georgia. While at Florida, May was one of the top players for the UF Rugby Club – either as the scrumhalf or fullback. In their athletic careers, May and Walker have yet to play each other on the football field or the rugby pitch.