Earlier this month, SEC Country selected the greatest athlete in each school’s history. Now, in the spirit of March Madness, we’ve put together a 14-player bracket, and we’re ready to declare a champion.
Our setup mirrors the SEC basketball tournament, and this is the final round. Tonight’s matchup is a decades-old question that’s been answered thousands of times in SEC bars: Georgia’s Herschel Walker or Auburn’s Bo Jackson?
Here’s the rundown.
Herschel Walker, Georgia running back
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.
Bo Jackson, Auburn running back
On the football field, Jackson averaged more than 6.6 yards per carry and scored 45 total touchdowns in four seasons with the Tigers. That includes a 1984 junior season in which Jackson missed a substantial amount of time due to injury. He snapped a 9-game losing streak against Alabama with “Bo Over the Top” as a true freshman, and he unofficially recorded one of the fastest 40-yard dashes in NFL Combine history.
In baseball, Jackson batted .401 as a junior and had four straight MLB seasons with 20-plus home runs. He played both baseball and football professionally from 1987 to 1990, winning the MLB All-Star Game MVP in 1989 and making it to the Pro Bowl in 1990. On top of all that, he was an accomplished track and field athlete at Auburn.
This answer usually depends on which side of the Alabama-Georgia border you sit on. Walker and Jackson redefined SEC football in the early to mid-1980s. Both won a Heisman Trophy. Both were named All-Americans at least twice (Walker thrice). Walker was a track star. Jackson was a baseball star. Their names litter the conference record book, and every great SEC running back will forever be compared to them. It’s a package deal: Herschel and Bo.
In order to arrive at a conclusion that doesn’t involve the word “tie,” let’s look a little deeper. Walker’s non-football advantage lies in track and field, where he was a two-time All-American at Georgia. But Jackson was also a track participant at Auburn, and the legend of his 4.12 40-yard dash time will never die. He was certainly fast enough to hang with Walker in a sprint.
Baseball plays a big role in this conversation, because it’s a highly specialized sport that Jackson dominated at times, just as he dominated on the gridiron. Walker can’t match this ace in the hole. If we were arguing who the best pure running back was, Walker might have the upper hand. But we’re not. When someone asks, “Who is the best SEC athlete of all time?” there shouldn’t be too much consternation. The winner: Jackson.