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With departure in junior season, Walker set precedent

POSTED: December 17, 2007 5:02 a.m.
Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, the Juice and Archie came before him. Bo, Barry and Reggie Bush followed. But perhaps no running back changed college football more than Herschel Walker during three seasons at the University of Georgia.

His career started with a touchdown on his first carry as a freshman. It ended with him receiving the 48th Heisman Trophy as a junior in 1982. In between, he finished third for the award, second for the award and produced enough memorable moments to fill a personal hall of fame.

"I followed him because that’s when I was playing college football," Florida Coach Urban Meyer said a couple of weeks ago. "I thought he was a fun guy to watch."

Meyer coaches Tim Tebow, who many folks find a pretty fun guy to watch. And Saturday night, 25 years after Walker won his Heisman, Tebow will be the favorite to claim one himself.

In the same way that perhaps no quarterback this season has looked and run and thrown and scored quite like Tebow, no running back had performed like Walker. He built his 6-foot-2, 222-pound physique with sit-ups, push-ups, chin-ups and wind sprints — no weights necessary. And that body brought Georgia the 1980 national championship and shoved Walker into the record books time after time.

He altered the game off the field, too, when he decided to skip his final season of eligibility and sign with the United States Football League’s New Jersey Generals.

"That changed the face of it," said Pat Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman winner. "A lot of guys saw him do it and followed. He kind of opened the door for guys leaving early."

Since then, several big backs have made a career of barreling through tacklers, and other small-town men have passed on their senior year. But none has done it with Walker’s style, innocent nature and physical dominance.

Walker is one of seven Heisman winners from the Southeastern Conference. Here’s a quick look at those players:



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