If you’ve watched sports for a long enough time, you’ll have encountered plenty of unforgettable moments. If you’re an NFL fan of a certain era, you’ll probably never forget the Herschel Walker trade. On paper, it deal looked like it would help the Minnesota Vikings reach the promised land; in reality, though, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys came out smelling like roses.
Behind the scenes, however, Herschel Walker didn’t actually want to leave Dallas. Once Jerry Jones gave him “houses and cars and all sorts of junk,” though, the running back agreed to the deal.
Herschel Walker looked like a legitimate game-changer
In the modern NFL, athleticism is the name of the game. During his time on the gridiron, few men were more athletic than Herschel Walker.
After an impressive high school career as both a football player and a sprinter, Walker took his talents to the University of Georgia. While he kept running in college, he truly became a star for the Bulldogs football team. In three NCAA seasons, he piled up 5,259 rushing yards, 49 touchdowns on the ground, and the 1982 Heisman Trophy before leaving campus.
Walker spent three years in the USFL—the NFL, at the time, didn’t let players enter the draft until their class graduated—before joining the Dallas Cowboys for the 1986 campaign. While he originally shared duties with Tony Dorsett, the young running back and his incredible athleticism eventually stole the spotlight.
Before long, though, Jerry Jones traded Walker to the Minnesota Vikings. While that deal was supposed to help the NFC North club win the Super Bowl, it had the opposite effect. The Cowboys went on to win three titles, and Walker bounced around the league, failing to reach the heights he did in Dallas. With that being said, though, he still recorded 8,225 rushing yards and 82 total touchdowns during his time in the pros.
Jerry Jones Gave the running back ‘houses and cars and all sorts of junk’ to accept a trade
As mentioned above, a 1989 trade took Herschel Walker from the Dallas Cowboys to the Minnesota Vikings. The running back, however, wasn’t initially excited about the prospect of leaving Texas.
“I didn’t want to go, so me and my agent at the time, Peter Johnson, threw out a bunch of ridiculous stuff,” Walker told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We figured if we asked for a rocket ship, they weren’t going to give us that. So we asked for houses and cars and all sorts of junk. We really didn’t want the stuff. I didn’t care about the money. We just threw it out because we thought they’d say no.”
As we all know, the Cowboys didn’t say no. “Then Jerry agreed to it,” Walker continued. “He called our bluff.”
While that bluff didn’t work out for Walker from a football perspective, it did give him a nice financial boost. He told Tomasson that he received a house in Edina, Minnesota, two cars, “one a sport-utility vehicle and the other a luxury vehicle for his then-wife Cindy,” and “some other non-cash items were worth more than $1.25 million.” As of 2014, the former running back also said that he still owned the house in question.
Herschel Walker cashed in, but Jerry Jones got the last laugh
Thanks to his gifts from Jerry Jones and the contract he signed in Minnesota, Herschel Walker turned a nice profit on the trade. “Throw in the $1.25 million Walker got in cash, and he received goods totaling more than $2.5 million,” Tomasson explained. “That was more than 2-1/2 times his 1989 salary.” The Dallas Cowboy, however, got the last laugh.
While Jerry Jones gave up a star running back, he received a boatload of draft picks in return; those selections turned into Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, and others, helping Jones and Jimmy Johnson build a modern dynasty. The Cowboys would win three Super Bowl titles while still haven’t returned to the big game, let alone lifted the Lombardi Trophy.
Since then, Jerry Jones seems to have let his success go to his head; in retrospect, though, he did pull off quite a steal by sending Herschel Walker packing.