During their playing careers, professional athletes have to follow a tight schedule. The season is understandably filled with practices and games; while the offseason is theoretically more relaxed, there’s still plenty of training to be done. Herschel Walker, however, tried something different: ballet.
While the running back showed off his fancy footwork on the gridiron, things are a bit different on the stage. Herschel Walker’s ballet debut, however, still went off without a hitch.
Herschel Walker’s rise to prominence
During his high school career, Herschel Walker made a name for himself as both a running back and a track star. While he continued to excel in both arenas in college, he truly shone on the gridiron with the George Bulldogs.
Walker burst onto the scene as a freshman, piling up 1616 yards on 274 carries; he helped Georgia post a 12-0 record, winning the National Championship in the process. His production would increase each season, culminating with a 1,752 yard, 16 touchdown Heisman Trophy-winning junior year.
After that season, however, Walker decided to go pro. While he wasn’t eligible to enter the NFL draft, the USFL didn’t have the same restrictions. The running back joined up with the New Jersey Generals; he posted three strong seasons, including a 2,411 yard, 21 touchdown campaign.
Stealing the show in the NFL
While Herschel Walker started his professional career in the USFL, he would immediately make it to the NFL. In 1985, the Dallas Cowboys selected the running back in the fifth round of the draft; he would join America’s Team the following season.
Walker initially shared the backfield with Tony Dorsett, but he promptly took over the majority of the carries. Despite racking up more than 2,000 all-purpose yards in 1988, his time in Dallas wouldn’t last much longer; he was infamously traded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1989.
In the NFC North, however, Walker never found the same heights. He would leave the Vikings after two and a half seasons, joining the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He returned to Dallas in 1996, spending the final two years of his NFL career where it all began. While he retired with 13,084 all-purpose yards and 82 total touchdowns, Walker never returned to the heights of his time in college.
Herschel Walker’s brief ballet career
While Herschel Walker might have been a professional football player, his pursuits weren’t confined to the gridiron. The running back practiced martial arts and went to the 1992 Olympics as a bobsledder. One offseason, however, he starred in a different arena: ballet.
In the spring of 1988, Walker took the stage with the Fort Worth Ballet for a performance. He took introductory ballet during his time in college; those skills, combined with his NFL experience, served him in his encore.
“Just like football, you have to have a high concentration level in ballet,” Walker explained at the time. ”We had five rehearsals, so I knew when she was comfortable. In football, you read your teammates. Here it’s reading your partner. The eyes tell it all.”
By all accounts, Walker held his own as a dancer, but his real talent was exposing plenty of football fans to their first taste of ballet.
″This was a wonderful gesture on Mr. Walker’s part, and he was successful in bringing people out here today who wouldn’t have otherwise come to the ballet,″ Artistic Director Paul Mejia told the Associated Press. ″It was exactly what I wanted, and more. I’m very proud of Herschel for what he’s done here.″