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Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks
Paul Zimmerman
March 14, 1983
Among the things Herschel Walker learned in his losing USFL debut was how to sit on the bench
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March 14, 1983

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Among the things Herschel Walker learned in his losing USFL debut was how to sit on the bench

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"God almighty, he's only been practicing for a week," Fairbanks said. "A veteran back with that short a time, with no familiarity with your system, would have a tough enough time, let alone a rookie. He came out in the second half because they were doing different things with their defense—stunts and blitzes that we hadn't expected. I didn't want to expose him to that."

Well, how about when it was third-and-three at the five? A 220-pound back who can run a 4.25 40—"That's the last clocking they got on me at Georgia." Walker says—might have been useful.

"I really don't have an answer for why he came out then," Fairbanks said. "I felt confident with the way we were going with the people in there.

"Listen, Herschel did a fine job for us today, considering the amount of practice time he had. A few mistakes here and there, but not bad considering...."

Walker was asked if pro football was what he'd expected. "Tougher," he said. "They had more speed than I thought, plus they knew how to execute."

Was he confused out there? "No, I don't think so."

Dominant? "Well, I'm not going out on the field thinking like that."

What are you going to do now? "Work on getting better."

And so on. Lurking somewhere in the background was the old, depressing memory of Simpson's debut in pro football, when Buffalo Bills Coach John Rauch built his attack around Jack Kemp's arm rather than O.J.'s legs, until Lou Saban took over and set the matter straight. Could that possibly happen here?

"You don't have to worry," Fairbanks said. "He's got a lot of football ahead of him. Don't forget we still have 17 games to play this season."

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