Former Georgia Bulldog Legend Supports the Mission of PHIT America
By SFIA Insider Blog Special Contributor, Mike May
When any sports fan conjures up an image of football legend and 1992 U.S. Winter Olympian Herschel Walker (‘ole #34), you remember him dashing and crashing through one defensive line after another — and, then being dragged to the ground by at least two or three defenders. That’s the Herschel Walker story — whether it was on Friday nights in high school, Saturday afternoons in college, or on Sundays as a professional. Walker’s well-chiseled physique – the result of thousands of sit-ups and push-ups over the years – is also a clear and vivid image in the minds of those who witnessed this physically-gifted man display his vast talents on the gridiron. To this day, Walker, the winner of the 1982 Heisman Trophy, looks the same as when he stepped onto the University of Georgia campus more than 30 years ago as a freshman from Wrightsville, Georgia. Nowadays, his hair is as jet black as it was when he was a teenager and he appears to be as physically fit as he was during his playing days in the now-defunct United States Football League (USFL) and later in the National Football League (NFL). He truly is the real deal. He talks the talk and walks the walk.
Right now, Walker is in the food business. He’s the chairman and CEO of H. Walker Enterprises which owns and operates two brands – Herschel’s Famous 34 Appetizers and Renaissance Man International, LLC. Curious onlookers are encouraged to check out his business’s website – www.herschelsfamous34.com. While he’s based in Dallas, Texas, he’s always ‘on the go’ – crisscrossing the country establishing new accounts and promoting his brand to prospective buyers. Just as he was a success on the football field, he has been equally as successful off the field. The only difference is that you can read about Walker’s accomplishments in the business section of the newspaper and not just in the sports section. He has said that “if you eat a chicken wing or a chicken tender in Las Vegas as an appetizer, I probably supplied it.”
While football will always be a prominent part of his life, his existence has taken on the appearance of an impressive stock portfolio – balanced and diversified. In addition to being a legendary athlete and a very successful (and respected) businessman, Walker is a father, weekend warrior (an avid cyclist, runner, and martial arts participant), and an advocate of physical education in schools.
In recent years, Walker has taken time out of his busy schedule to travel to Washington, D.C. one day a year to meet with members of Congress to share his concerns about declining levels of physical fitness in American children and what can be done to reverse America’s ‘Inactivity Pandemic.’
He openly admits the foundation of his personal and professional success can be attributed to daily P.E. classes in school while growing up in Wrightsville.
“As a young child, I was timid, shy, and overweight – but once I learned the importance and fun of physical fitness, I gained personal confidence in my ability to interact with others and achieve academic success in the classroom,” recalls Walker. In the end, he graduated from high school as the valedictorian – and he credits his exposure to P.E. as the foundation of his academic success.
Every year since 2001, Walker has been part of a delegation of people who travel to Capitol Hill each spring for National Health Through Fitness Day, organized by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). On March 22, Walker attended the 18th annual National Health Through Fitness Day lobbying event. Organized by the SFIA and sponsored by PHIT America, the main legislative goal of National Health Through Fitness Day was to lobby Congress for passage of the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act. The PHIT Act will change current federal tax law to allow for the deduction or use of pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities.
“Participation in National Health Through Fitness Day activities is a win-win for all those affected by the legislation,” says Walker, who serves as the honorary chairman of National Health Through Fitness Day. “I have come here many times in the past. I get the chance to meet face-to-face with members of Congress to ask for their support of legislation to prevent illness through increased physical activity. The PHIT Act will encourage physically active lifestyles by making sports, fitness and recreational activities more affordable.”
Walker is quick to remind the general public that they can lend their voice and support to this lobbying effort without traveling to our nation’s capital. They can access PASSThePHITAct.org, where they can send an electronic letter to their local member of Congress and their state’s two U.S. Senators. Walker also uses interviews with the media to have his voice heard, as he did during a ‘live’ TV interview on Tuesday, March 21st on CNBC. Click Here to watch the interview.
According to Walker, Americans can show their support for this legislation by getting behind the work of PHIT America (www.PHITAmerica.org) — an educational, advocacy, and social media marketing campaign designed to reach millions of Americans. PHIT America is combating the ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ by promoting new legislation and grassroots programs that will help get Americans more physically active, playing more sports, getting fit and becoming healthier. In fact, Walker is such a strong advocate of PHIT America that he is a Celebrity Ambassador for PHIT America.
“We’re talking about health care when we talk about physical activity,” states Walker. “Obesity is now a serious problem. If we don’t stop obesity, it will become an epidemic. People need to realize that fitness and physical activity will keep you young and vibrant.”
Speaking of health care and physical activity, Walker encourages the employees of his company to spend at least an hour a day to engage in exercise and physical activity. That way of thinking is in line with the logic of the PHIT Act and the overall mission of PHIT America.
Right now, less than 50% of U.S. schoolchildren have a daily P.E. class, yet 94% of the adult respondents to a 2013 NBC News poll indicated they wanted physical education as a daily, core subject for all students in all grades! Sadly, many states allow waivers so students can opt out of P.E. The lack of daily P.E. is evident on the expanding waistlines of American children. That’s a problem – if you ask ‘ole #34 – which needs to be addressed.
“My life wouldn’t be where it is today without that P.E. class in school,” notes Walker. “P.E. in schools is as important as the other subjects. P.E. needs to be considered a real class. Without it, we are doing a disservice to our children. I’d like to see physical education as a priority in schools. I travel to Washington each year to speak out for those whose voices can’t be heard. We need to work with school systems to put P.E. in the classroom.”
Each spring, Walker is in Washington, D.C. where he meets, face-to-face, with a number of U.S. Senators and Representatives. Walker looks every legislator in the eye, addresses the issue at hand, and asks for their help with the PHIT Act. Very few legislators don’t pledge their support for ‘ole #34. It’s worth noting that the PHIT Act was re-introduced as a bill in Congress on March 1 – H.R. 1267 in the U.S. House of Representatives and S. 482 in the U.S. Senate. The main Republican sponsors of the bill are Senator John Thune (SD) and Congressman Jason Smith (MO). The lead Democrats sponsoring the PHIT Act are Senator Chris Murphy (CT) and Representative Ron Kind (WI).
In recent years, many federal legislators from both sides of the aisle have indicated that they are ready to pledge support to Walker and the physical fitness cause.
“People have to stand for more than just football or a sport,” summarizes Walker. “I’m just doing my part by coming to Washington, D.C. each year. Everyone should be part of the PHIT America ‘Movement.’ Contact PHIT America Founder Jim Baugh to learn how you, individually, or your company can get involved.”
When Walker walks along the halls of Congress – in and out of elevators, up and down staircases, back and forth along the office corridors – he gets the attention of everyone who sees his unmistakable gait. And when Herschel Walker strides into a room to speak, people listen….and when Herschel Walker walks, people are quick to follow…….and, when Herschel Walker runs, people (still) cheer – for ‘ole #34.