The next Herschel isn't out there

semerson@macon.comJuly 22, 2012 

ATHENS - As far as the Georgia football program is concerned, there may be only one good thing to come out of events of the past month: The urge to compare any tailback to the greatest one in school history, the desire to find the next Herschel Walker ... It won't happen anymore.

Or at least anybody who tries should have their head examined.

This time last year, Georgia offensive coaches were trying to tamp down comparisons between Isaiah Crowell and Walker. As we discovered, they were right to do so. And one doubts any tailback will ever again be mentioned in the same sentence with Herschel, no matter how good Keith Marshall or Todd Gurley may look against Florida Atlantic.

This is what Mike Bobo, the former Georgia quarterback and now offensive coordinator, said last August when asked to compare Crowell to anybody.

“A marquee tailback at any school, there’s a lot of expectation – especially at this level. But a place like Georgia, that’s had a lot of great tailbacks, and had arguably one of the best that’s ever played the game. And everybody’s still waiting for that guy,” Bobo said, not even needing to say Walker’s name.

Walker played his high school football at Johnson County, where he stamped his legacy as one of the top players in Middle Georgia prep history. The Macon Telegraph is doing a summer project, selecting the top player at every uniform number (0-99) in Middle Georgia history.

Walker is the easy and obvious choice for No. 43. (He transposed those numbers when he got to college.)

"I've always believed that talented people can be overachievers too - those are your superstars - and there is no better example than Herschel Walker," wrote Vince Dooley in his 2005 book, "Dooley: My 40 Years at Georgia."

Walker only played three years in Athens, but he still holds most of the program's rushing records. He has the three top rushing-yardage seasons in school history, and his 1,891 in 1981 is still the SEC record. His career total of 5,259 is also an SEC record. He has the two top rushing-yardage games in Georgia history (283 vs. Vanderbilt in '80 and 265 vs. Ole Miss in '81). His 49 career rushing touchdowns (by a tailback) is also the Georgia and SEC record. (As a reader correctly pointed out, Tim Tebow broke Walker's record.)

"When you combine those skills with intangibles like determination and self-discipline, then you have a once-in-a-lifetime player," Dooley wrote. "That's what Herschel Walker was."

There have been some sterling tailbacks at Georgia in the post-Herschel era. Garrison Hearst. Terrell Davis. Robert Edwards. Knowshon Moreno. Practically anybody who ever led the Bulldogs in rushing has seen time in the NFL: Tim Worley, Rodney Hampton, Olandis Gary, Verron Haynes, Musa Smith, Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin.

But the only one who came close - and not really that close - was Hearst.

There have also been the wash-outs, with Crowell joining a list that includes Washaun Ealey (leading rusher in 2009 and 2010) and Jasper Sanks (leading rusher in 1999).

I remember back to last preseason, when Crowell mentioned that he had spoken with Sanks, a fellow graduate of Columbus Carver High School.

"Really he's (been) telling me to keep my head on straight and he was telling me that he messed up ... certain things not to do, certain things to do, and work hard when I got up here," Crowell said.

Crowell couldn't do it.

He still has a chance to re-claim his future, but it won't happen at Georgia. For now, he takes his spot alongisde Sanks.

And Herschel remains the standard. He always will be. For Georgia, the goal shouldn't be finding the next Herschel - it should be finding the next Garrison, or Terrell, or Robert or Knowshon.

Or perhaps even just the next Olandis, Musa or Thomas.

At this point, that will be good enough.

 

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