Ten minutes with Herschel Walker
By Airman Robert J. Volio, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 23, 2015
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As children, we idolize many people growing up. Some of us admired actors, while others were enamored with their favorite musicians. I've always been starstruck by professional athletes; the extremely talented men and women who play my favorite sports, who I'd never dream of meeting in person.
What if you finally got to meet one of those people you idolized? What would you say to them? Better yet, have you ever wondered what they would think of you, or would say to you? Sometimes, we're too caught up in that split-second conversation or those swift signatures, that we forget athletes are regular people just like us.
Despite his fame, Herschel Walker is one of those regular people.
Walker is a Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL running back who trampled over opposing defenses for more than a decade. He played for the Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles. As a diehard Eagles fan, I was ecstatic to hear about his arrival and even more giddy to learn I would soon be interviewing this former NFL great.
I prepped for my interview like a college student studying for their final exams. After watching several old clips and documentaries of Walker, I was ready for an interview I'd remember the rest of my life.
As I arrived at Walker's lodging on base, thoughts of what I would say to him began to emerge. I became anxious. Luckily for me, Walker's humility and generosity toward military members quickly put me at ease.
As he thoughtfully replied to each of my questions, one thing that immediately stood out to me was Walker's passion for the military. He has visited more than 100 military installations and spoken to more than 100,000 military members, including many wounded warriors. His awareness of the military's sacrifices is profound.
"What keeps me coming back is I feel like I'm not doing my part," said Walker. "What made this country the best in the world is our military. I remember coach Tom Landry said 'if you take something out of society, make sure you put something back in'. Our military puts a lot in. I wanted to be in the military, and now I have the opportunity to serve those who are serving."
Walker also discussed his issues with obesity and bullying growing up. He recalled the harsh insults his classmates would hurl at him. Through his hard work and perseverance, however, Walker proved his childhood critics wrong and became valedictorian of his high school class.
As the end of the interview drew near, I had so many more questions I wanted to ask, but so little time. After being run rampant during his two-day visit, I was sure Walker was finally ready to kick back and relax. Much to my surprise, Walker continued to converse with me once I finished my interview questions. No topic was off-limits as we spoke about things like his favorite moments during his career and his current business endeavors.
After speaking to hundreds of people, signing thousands of autographs and taking just as many photos, Walker still had no qualms with speaking to me for a little while longer. He didn't have an issue with it because he wasn't doing me a favor, I was doing one for him. While members of Team V were collecting signatures and photos of Walker to show off to their friends and family, Walker was humbled and honored to be in their presence.
As we concluded the conversation, I was almost speechless to learn that Walker, who I had admired for so long, thought I was his hero for serving in the military -- a title I can only hope to one day live up to.
"I say it all the time, every person who serves or has ever served in the military, is my hero," said Walker. "I was privileged to play football, but you guys are doing something for our country. That's a much bigger deal to me. Thank you for all you've done for me."
Thank you, Herschel. Thank you for being a regular person.