By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
WATCH THE "HERSCHEL" VIDEO TRAILER HERE
ATLANTA – It doesn’t seem possible that the two things could go together.
When fans think of the strong, muscular, driven Herschel Walker, they think of the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and the image shown on the trailer of the documentary “Herschel” where the 6-foot-2 Walker runs right through former Tennessee All-American safety Bill Bates.
It is nearly impossible then for fans to couple that image of Walker with the reality that he suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, commonly known as “Multiple Personality Disorder.”
When “Herschel” debuts on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPNU as part of the SEC “Storied” series, viewers will have the opportunity to see Walker’s life from all points of view. He sees it as a tremendous opportunity to help others who may be suffering from the same issues.
“What I did on the football field doesn’t mean anything, but what’s good about it is that you’re able to help someone else and that’s what I’ve been able to do,” Walker said. “I’ve had a lot of people – my teammates, Coach Dooley and so many other people – who have been there to help me, it’s almost scary. That’s what makes life wonderful is that you can reach out and help someone.”
Rory Carpf, the film’s producer, was on hand as part of a question-and-answer session last Thursday night, and said that he thinks Walker’s willingness to share his struggles in the documentary will hopefully be a huge benefit to viewers battling similar problems.
“When he came out a few years ago and said he suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder, people were confused because it maybe wasn’t seen outwardly,” Carpf said. “I think that people really don’t like to bring up any negatives in their lives, but for Herschel to bring up some of these things, he’s doing it in an effort to help others so that people can watch this and, if they’re suffering from depression or Dissociative Identity Disorder or something like that, then maybe they can look at this and see something.”
Walker has also been active in his communities, serving the Freedom Care Program as its national spokesman, helping military service personnel who are struggling with mental health disorders.
“I have about five hospitals where we have helped about 4,600 military service men and women,” Walker said. “We have helped so many people to love themselves and that is what counts. Through whatever I have struggled with, as long as I can reach out and help someone, it’s worth it. As long as I can help someone make themselves better, I’m happy.”
Carpf says that Walker’s openness regarding his childhood bullying is just as important of an issue, and one where the former football star’s influence can help others.
“Bullying is a big problem in the news now,” Carpf said. “Kids who are being bullied can see what Herschel went through and saw that he has overcome it and been able to be very successful. Maybe they can learn something from that and it will give them some hope.”
It’s a piece of advice that Walker gives to people of all ages. If there is anything he has learned from his struggles with both bullying and Dissociative Identity Disorder, to him, that has been the most important lesson.
“That’s very important,” Walker told me Thursday night. “I tell people all the time to love yourself. I remember a couple of years ago when I was in Dallas, and Terrell Owens said ‘I love me some Terrell.’ All the reporters thought he was an arrogant player and I said, no, that’s what he’s got to do.”
Walker spent too many years of his childhood not loving himself. As part of his transformation, he made sure that would never happen again.
“I tell kids all the time, love yourself, but be willing to pay the price when you say that,” Walker said. “What I mean by that is that you have to be willing to go out there and do your best. You have to be willing not to do the wrong thing. You’re not always going to be right, but one thing I always did was try to love myself and try to look up, because when you look up, you go up.”
Walker knows the power of a positive attitude. It was when Walker changed his attitude that he really began to thrive as a person and an athlete.
“If you’re the one that’s walking around like you’re timid, that’s when people are going to pick on you,” Walker said in the documentary, recounting being beaten up on the last day of his eighth grade year. “Everybody circled around me and this guy just started beating me up. I remember saying to myself that this won’t happen to me again. I will never get beaten up again. All of a sudden, it was like, ‘bam,’ things just changed.”
Walker hopes to use his experiences to help others change their situations to allow them to thrive in life.
“I always say that I want to inspire people to be better than they can be,” Walker said. “I don’t care where you’re from or what you have to go through, as long as you have a positive frame of mind, you can overcome anything. I let people know that life is going to be tough, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the wrong thing. That doesn’t mean you have to go down the wrong track. You can continue to work hard and it’s going to be okay.”