PHILADELPHIA -- Some NFL teams might have considered it a gamble to sign Herschel Walker. But, as far as Walker is concerned, it was no gamble for the Philadelphia Eagles, who signed the former Heisman Trophy winner to a two-year contract yesterday.
"What's so strange is hearing everyone say, at this stage of my career -- age 30 -- I'm slowing down," said Walker, who pointed out that he was the fifth-most-productive rusher in the NFC last season, gaining 825 yards on 198 carries (4.2 average).
"At age 30, I'll take on any 22-year-old and beat him. I'll put my salary against yours that there's not any running back who can outrun me," added Walker, whose salary with the Eagles is believed to be about $700,000, far below the $1.7 million the Minnesota Vikings paid him last year.
"After seeing him, [coach] Rich Kotite and I had no question Herschel Walker is committed to the game and to winning," said Eagles president Harry Gamble. "I was just extremely impressed with Herschel as an individual.
"I had, perhaps wrongly so, drawn some conclusions about him."
During a two-hour meeting June 9 at Walker's in-laws' house in Verona, N.J., Walker demonstrated enough sincerity to convince Gamble and Kotite he was worthy of signing.
"The Eagles are a team I feel can get the job done -- get to the Super Bowl," Walker said. "There's great chemistry here. The chemistry in Minnesota just didn't work."
Walker was released this spring by the Vikings, who got him from Dallas for five players and eight draft choices in 1989, a trade that turned out to be a bonanza for the Cowboys and a bust for the Vikings.
So, after 2 1/2 frustrating seasons with the Vikings, Walker sought and was granted free agency. With Philadelphia winning the bidding over teams he wouldn't name, which reportedly included the Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons, he says he's ready to get back to work.
"I don't want anything given to me," said Walker, who'll join a crowded backfield led by Keith Byars, with rookies Siran Stacy and Tony Brooks waiting in the wings. "I want to earn it. I never really felt a part of things in Minnesota. Maybe my biggest fault is I want to compete. The last 2 1/2 years I've been able to compete, but we really haven't gone anywhere.
"But when you have a defense like the Eagles', you're always going to win a lot of games."
As for offense, adding Walker to the mix could be just the ingredient the Eagles need.
"All I know is we've upgraded our football team," said Kotite. "We've given ourselves the best opportunity to make a run for it."