As you may recall, SB Nation has started its own college football hall of fame, for which Dawg Sports offered a slate of Georgia nominees. The first class of inductees is being announced, and Texas’s Ricky Williams was honored as the initial running back to be admitted, inasmuch as he "helped lead the Longhorns to high-profile bowls in three of his four years on campus" and finished his career with what was then an NCAA-record 6,279 rushing yards. (The record stood for all of one year.)
I’m not going to pussyfoot around about this; the only reason anyone even thinks Williams is in the conversation is that Herschel Walker spent what should have been his senior season playing for the New Jersey Generals.
In response to that business about Ricky leading Texas to three major bowls in four years (which glosses over the inconvenient fact that the ‘Horns went 4-7 in his junior campaign), I would note that Herschel led Georgia to three major bowls in three years. He also never lost a conference game, won a national championship, and went 33-3 in his varsity career. In terms of a tailback’s impact on his team’s success, Williams isn’t remotely in a class with Walker.
Individually, the Goal Line Stalker set 41 school, 16 conference, and eleven NCAA records, and he was a consensus All-American and finished in the top three in the Heisman Trophy balloting in each of his trio of collegiate seasons. (Please note: Herschel was a three-time All-American in a three-year career; Williams was a two-time All-American in a four-year career.) Walker ran for more yards in a three-year career (5,259) than anyone else in NCAA history. With an extra year in which to do it, Williams managed just 1,020 more career yards than Walker.
Let’s not kid ourselves: Ricky Williams won the Heisman Trophy as a career achievement award because he set a major college rushing record---the same reason Ron Dayne did the following autumn---and that only happened because Herschel Walker left early for the USFL. Had Herschel returned for his senior year, 6,279 would only have been good enough for second place, Ricky wouldn’t have taken home the trophy in 1998, and Williams likely would have two fewer Heismans than Walker.
Finally, if character is a consideration, Williams isn’t fit to carry Walker’s jockstrap. The ESPN “30 for 30” documentary “Run Ricky Run,” which was made by a friend of the troubled Texas tailback, makes it clear that the best face one can put on Williams is that he’s a total head case. In stark contrast to the man we saw portrayed in the “SEC Storied” documentary about the Goal Line Stalker, Williams repeatedly was caught violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, left the Miami Dolphins in the lurch with his abrupt retirement from professional football, and has five children by three different women. Ricky, in short, is a pothead with no sense of personal or professional responsibility, while Herschel is as high-class and high-character an athlete as you are apt to find. The Goal Line Stalker played with humility, toughed it out while playing with a cast on his broken thumb, lived up to all his obligations despite his own struggles with mental illness, and continues to challenge himself with new ventures, physically and financially. He’s 15 years older than Williams, yet Herschel could still kick Ricky’s ass.
Frankly, this selection is an embarrassment, and it demonstrates that bloggers are as susceptible to silliness as other sportswriters. Ricky Williams isn’t even one of the top two tailbacks I’ve seen play who wore the number 34, which is why the announcement of his enshrinement was so preposterous when declaring that, “if we have to choose a single player for our Hall of Fame backfield, it's Williams.” If you had to choose a single player for your Hall of Fame backfield, and you’d pick Ricky Williams over Herschel Walker, you deserve to go 4-7 and be left holding the bag and reeking of pot smoke when your star tailback flakes out on you and decides not to show up for his team and his fans.