When the news broke that Herschel Walker was going to skip his senior year at the University of Georgia to play football for the New Jersey Generals for $3.9 million, no one was more delighted than the Federals' management. In particular, it looked forward to a sunny May day when Walker would come to RFK Stadium and bring about 50,000 paying fans along with him.
The day of Walker's Washington debut has arrived (1:30 p.m., WMAL-630). And, although rain may fall, although Federals owner Berl Bernhard expects only around 20-25,000 and although the Generals (3-9) and the Federals (1-11) have the worst records in the U.S. Football League, Walker has proved he's worth watching.
Walker arrived in training camp only days before New Jersey's season-opener. At the start, his performance resembled a colt's awkward first steps, but ever since Walker has proved himself a thoroughbred. He leads the league in rushing with 1,279 yards on 289 carries and has caught 38 passes for 393 yards. His 13 touchdowns trail only Philadelphia's Kelvin Bryant, who has 14.
Occasionally, a team is able to stop Walker by concentrating nearly all of its defense on him. Birmingham limited Walker to 28 yards on 11 carries three weeks ago. Such is the price of playing with an otherwise mediocre offense. More often, however, Walker has fulfilled the promise of his college career.
On a typical play, he will take a pitchout, wait for a decent block as he moves along the line of scrimmage and then make a move upfield that is so quick and decisive that it leaves everyone else behind. And more than one defensive back has learned that Walker is more than willing to use a straight-arm to clear a path. Only his tendency to fumble can be cited as a fault.
Walker's coach at Georgia, Vince Dooley, said recently that he has talked to his former player on the telephone a number of times. Doooley said if Walker had it to do over again, he would have finished his career at Georgia.
Walker, who got an unpleasant taste of controversy after his signing, has tried all season to avoid any public statements that have the ring of displeasure.
"Coach Dooley has a right to his opinion, but I'm happy here," Walker said. "I love to play and I like it here."
When the Federals played the Generals at the Meadowlands, Walker gained 143 yards on 28 carries.
Generals Coach Chuck Fairbanks has something of an offensive dilemma. After trading starting quarterback Bobby Scott to the Chicago Blitz last week, Fairbanks is left to choose between Gene Bradley and Jeff Knapple as his starter.
Bradley has thrown only six passes all year and Knapple, who came to the team in a recent trade with Denver, has thrown 49 passes this season, nine for interceptions, 23 for completions. Fairbanks reportedly is leaning toward starting Bradley.
The Federals will be playing without wide receiver Mike Holmes (bruised thigh), linebacker Jeff McIntyre (ankle), return specialist Eric Robinson (bruised sternum) and defensive back Victor Jackson (broken wrist).
The Generals will be missing only one starter, offensive tackle Greg Murtha (injured knee).
Washington announced the signing of two free agents, defensive back Anthony Watson, an 11th-round selection by the San Diego Chargers in 1982, and wide receiver Charles Chisley, who was on the Redskins' injured-reserve list last year after graduating from the University of the District of Columbia.