When discussing the greatest athlete in Georgia Bulldogs sports history, one name stands above the rest.
Herschel Walker (1980-82)
Walker is undoubtedly the best Georgia football player of all time. There also is a case to be made for Walker as the greatest college running back — and possibly greatest player — of all time.
In three seasons at Georgia between 1980 and 1982, Walker rushed for 5,259 yards, a school record that stands. As a freshman (my god, a freshman) he led Georgia football to the 1980 national title. He won SEC Player of the Year all three seasons at Georgia, was a consensus All-America selection all three seasons and won the 1982 Heisman Trophy.
In addition, Walker was a two-time All-America selection as a member of Georgia’s track team.
Walker’s professional career came nowhere near the heights of his college years. He opted to play in the upstart USFL out of college, and he rushed for 5,000 yards over three seasons as a member of the New Jersey Generals. He then went on to a 12-year NFL career. Walker eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing twice in that span, finishing his NFL career with 8,225 rushing yards.
Walker is the greatest Georgia athlete of all time, an honor built on his ability and the mythos he created. His childhood is like a superhero origin story. Walker was an overweight child, but he began racing trains and doing sit-ups after school to get in shape.
Since high school and to this day, Walker’s workout routine includes doing 750 to 1,500 push-ups and 2,000 sit-ups. He competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics as a member of the USA’s bobsleigh team. He has a black belt in tae kwon do, and he won 2 mixed martial arts fights.
Here is Walker, at 48 years old, in his MMA debut beating the crap out of a guy and looking better than I can ever hope to look.
Walker is the best in a long line of fantastic athletes to come out of Athens. Here are, in no particular order, other Bulldogs heroes in the running for greatest Georgia athlete of all time.
Charley Trippi, 1942-46
If anyone has a claim to Walker’s throne, it’s Trippi. A multi-sport letterman for the Dawgs, Trippi was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1946. The winner: Glenn Davis of Army.
That season, Trippi had 1,366 yards of total offense as Georgia won the SEC championship and the Sugar Bowl. Trippi was also a standout for Georgia baseball and was an All-American in 1946. He spent parts of 1943, ’44 and ’45 in the Air Force. He played football in the 1942, ’45 and ’46 seasons.
Trippi played professional football for the Chicago Cardinals and had a stint playing pro baseball for the Atlanta Crackers, a top minor league team.
Allison Schmitt, 2008-13
Schmitt is the only candidate for UGA’s greatest athlete who is close to her prime today. Before enrolling at Georgia and joining Jack Bauerle’s swimming program, she competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Schmitt was part of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay team that won a bronze medal.
At Georgia, she was a four-time national champ, winning the 500-yard freestyle in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and the 200-yard freestyle in 2010.
Schmitt’s greatest accomplishments came in the 2012 Summer Olympics. She was part of gold medal-winning 400- and 200-meter freestyle relay teams. And, Schmitt won individual gold in the 200-meter freestyle.
In the 2016 Olympics, she went gold again as a part of the 200-meter freestyle relay team.
Teresa Edwards, 1982-86
Edwards was the key contributor to the Lady Dogs basketball teams that put UGA women’s hoops on the map in the early 1980s. She led Georgia to the Final Four in 1983 and 1985 and was twice an All-American. In 1984, while still playing for Georgia, she won her first Olympic gold medal as the youngest member of the USA basketball team.
She was part of gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic teams in 1988, 1996 and 2000. (The U.S. finished with bronze in 1992.) Sports Illustrated ranked her 22nd on its list of the 100 greatest female athletes of the 20th century.
Dominique Wilkins, 1979-1982
Georgia men’s basketball seldom has star power. Wilkins is the exception.
Wilkins averaged more than 21 points per game over his four years with the Bulldogs and was SEC men’s basketball Player of the Year in 1981. He was picked third in the 1982 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz but was traded to the Atlanta Hawks shortly after.
In 12 years with the Hawks, Wilkins earned the nickname “The Human Highlight Reel” for his incredible dunks. He made the All-Star team nine consecutive years with the Hawks. Wilkins was the NBA scoring champ in 1986, when he averaged 30.3 points per game.
In 2006, Wilkins was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.