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Terry Manning

The plot to destroy Herschel Walker 

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Whatever possessed Herschel Junior Walker to want to get into politics? 

For nearly four decades he enjoyed being a legendary figure in the world of college football. His play at tailback for the University of Georgia Bulldogs left an impression that loomed larger even than the Heisman Trophy he won as a junior. 

When he left Georgia to play pro football, his participation helped give credibility to the fledgling United State Football League, a would-be competitor to the National Football League we all know and most of us love. Walker was as much of a standout running back there as he’d been at Georgia, setting a single-season record for professional football with more than 2,400 yards in 18 games in 1985. 

When the USFL folded, Walker played for America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys. He shared a backfield with fellow Heisman winner Tony Dorsett before the team’s struggles led to Walker being traded to the Minnesota Vikings. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants before returning to Dallas to end his football career. 

Did I mention he was an All-American sprinter, competing with track legends like Carl Lewis in the 100-yard dash and as part of a winning 4×100 relay team? I can’t overlook the fact he qualified for the Olympics as a member of the two-man bobsled team? Did you know he is a fifth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and trained to become a professional mixed martial artist in his early 50s? 

Walker was, and is, a physical specimen like few have ever known, and for a long time that earned him a measure of goodwill with people around the world. He was the classic smalltown-boy-does-good, a sepia-toned Li’l Abner. 

When he appeared on the second season of “Celebrity Apprentice,” I said to myself, “Herschel won’t win, because he’s a straight shooter. There’s no way he’ll do all the spinning, double-talk, and backstabbing necessary to win.” And he didn’t win, but maybe he learned some lessons from the guy in charge of the show. 

See, when Walker played in the USFL, the team he played for was owned by a New York real estate magnate named Donald Trump. When he appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice,” his efforts were under the direction of a fading businessman named Donald Trump. So when then-President Donald Trump asked him to consider running for the Georgia U.S. Senate seat occupied by the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, I imagine it wasn’t a hard sell. 

Walker is a team player. It’s his nature as an athlete. It’s where he has always been most successful. So the chance to make the Republican Party winners again in his home state? To boost that chubby stuttering kid from his childhood to the peak of any American’s life? To do something that also would help “Mr. Trump” (as he invariably referred to him on the “Apprentice” show)? 

Soon after he announced, stories about domestic violence resurfaced. Then the COVID controversy where he said he had a spray that would eradicate the virus, though he never produced any such spray. 

Then came interviews where he answered policy questions with misshapen sentences bolting together GOP talking points, digs against liberals and factual errors. Then came lies about his business activities, including charitable donations he claimed that no one could verify. Then he began parroting the Big Lie the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump. 

Walker spouted conservative-friendly criticism of absentee fathers before reports surfaced he had three children outside wedlock with whom he had little to no contact. He promoted no-excuse bans on abortion until the mother of one of his children detailed how she aborted a second child of Walker’s in 2009. 

Walker’s son Christian joined the long line of critics calling the would-be senator a hypocrite, a sham. He defended his comments on Twitter, “You’re not being smeared if you actually did whatever you’re being accused of.” 

No, Walker wasn’t enough of a double-talker, backstabber or flat-out liar to win “Celebrity Apprentice,” but he’s proven he can be enough of one to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. 

Regardless of the election’s outcome, you can add Herschel Walker’s legacy to Trump’s King Sadim list of turning treasure into trash. 

Terry E. Manning is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com. 

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