Meeting Herschel Walker: Saying Thank You

Many of you may not even know who Herschel Walker is, and some of you may recall that he won the Heisman Trophy, played for the Dallas Cowboys, and even competed in the Olympics on the USA Olympic bobsled team. Or perhaps you heard about his daily (yes, every day) routine of something around 1000 push-ups, 2000 sit-ups, and a six-mile run (the legend has many variations). He also contends he eats only one meal per day (I heard him say it himself). He currently serves as Co-Chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition. So, it is fair to say that he is a busy guy.

Playing for the Dallas Cowboys

Herschel has also been in trouble in the past. He has suffered from a mental health disorder known as “Dissociative Identity Disorder” and he made some poor decisions along the way. But he has not stopped trying to get better.

Playing for the University of Georgia

Herschel was invited to be one of the keynote speakers for the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine’s annual meeting, with the title of his talk Being a Balanced Athlete and I was there about 20 rows from the stage. He was brought in to speak about sport specialization and how we need to let children play all sorts of sports before we try to make them professional athletes at 7 or 8 years old by having them focus on only one sport day after day, year after year. His 20-minutes on stage was exceptional. At least I thought so.

He introduced himself by saying, “If you take something out of society, make sure you put something back in.”

Celebrity Apprentice

And then he dove right into what he wanted to share with all of us. He talked about how he did not only play football, did not really even think about playing in college, and how he really wanted to be a US Marine after high school. He also participated in ballet, and the martial arts.

He emphasized the fact that we will get knocked down in life, but that we must keep going. That nothing that matters will be easy.

He spoke about how athletics helps with a child’s intellect, it deters them from getting into trouble, and it can provide an opportunity to get past the deck of cards that they may have been dealt when they came into the world.

His emphasis, “Kids should not specialize in sports because we don’t know what kids can do. They need to just go out and play. They need to enjoy it all.”

This can be translated in several ways, such as pushing our children into certain careers. Help them. Educate them. Show them options. But don’t force them to do what YOU want. That is my plug for improving parenting and or being a mentor to someone. The simple truth is that we must keep trying to get better.

But I still did not tell you how I met Herschel. The talk was done and a few other speakers took their place on stage. I kept an eye on where he was sitting. I wanted to simply tell him thank you. Much of what he said lined up well with the book I just wrote. So I wrote him a short little thank you card, and I grabbed a copy of my book from my bag (I was carrying one around just in case a moment like this came up…forward thinking if you will).

Portrait of Team USA Brian Shimer (front) with (L-R) Edwin Moses, Herschel Walker, and Willie Gault 7/14/1990

And then I did it. I went for it. While they were getting ready for the next group of speakers I ran up to the front row like a kid entering Disneyland, fighting my way through the crowd. I used my military training of situational awareness, bent down onto one knee as if I was about to propose to him. I told him that his talk was “exceptional,” and then handed him a copy of my book Exceptional Every Day with the thank you card. He shook my hand, smiled and said thank you. It all took less than 30 seconds. Perhaps it was a shameless plug for my book…but I was truly grateful for his talk and would have done the same thing whether I had a book or not.

It emphasized another life lesson for me:

If you are thinking about doing something, then go for it.

I have been around a few celebrities, and am friends with a few others, but I don’t get star struck. They are just people like you and me. They want to be treated like us as well. All I did was say thank you.

Today, tomorrow, next week or next year: If you are in a situation where you have the opportunity to personally thank someone for their work – celebrity or not – do it. Don’t just stand there clapping with the crowd. Make your move. Do it right. Be professional.

Thanks for listening today!

2 thoughts on “Meeting Herschel Walker: Saying Thank You”

  1. Turn on the courage to give the compliment you’ve always know in your heart. It costs little, but over coming a fear. Which will lead to overcoming…. many fears.

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