As I wrote last week’s article about how the new USFL could hurt the Dallas Cowboys, I discussed it with a good friend of mine, and it was brought up that the USFL did in fact benefit the Cowboys many years ago before. It gave them the greatest “bargaining chip” in the history of the NFL….Hershel Walker.
Hershel Walker was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1985, as the Cowboys didn’t believe the USFL would survive for long. Luckily, the Cowboys’ gamble paid off as the USFL folded the following year and Walker reported to the Cowboys still practically a rookie. He was a phenomenal athlete who complimented Tony Dorsett well in the backfield. But Coach Tom Landry’s time with the team expired in 1989 and here comes the new head coach, Jimmy Johnson.
Johnson was an aggressive head coach who didn’t mind taking chances. Johnson decided one day to trade his only other top athlete on the team. I remember hearing rumor after rumor that many teams were wanting to trade but not at Johnson’s price. The best offer he supposedly received was from the Cleveland Browns, but the Minnesota Vikings were looking for that final piece to the Super Bowl puzzle and they felt like Walker was it.
The Vikings traded, according to bleacherreport.com’s story on the best NFL trade, five players and six draft picks. The five players were Isaac Holt, Jesse Solomon, Darrin Nelson (Nelson was traded away to another team, he didn’t want to report to Dallas), David Howard, and Alex Stewart. Holt and Solomon, I remember them starting and playing. Both of them did very well from what I remember as a young man.
The six draft picks turned the Cowboys into the Super Bowl winners that the Vikings were hoping for out of Walker. Out of those picks, the Cowboys had gotten Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland, and Kevin Smith.
Emmitt Smith was undoubtedly the crown jewel of the group, but having Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland, and Kevin Smith was not too shabby either. Woodson retired as the team’s top tackler, Maryland’s outstanding performance in the team’s Super Bowls were vital to the team’s success. Having Kevin Smith and Woodson in the defensive backfield was reminiscent of the days of having Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris.
As far as the Vikings, the end result still haunts the Minnesota as I don’t think they have ever fully recovered from losing so many draft picks and watching as the Cowboys won three out of four Super Bowls. Every time you see a show counting down the top ten trades made in sports history, the Cowboys “Great Train Robbery” trade is sure to always be in there. Like the “Curse of the Bambino” which was infamous sale of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees, the Vikings have had some success but not want they wanted…a world championship. The Cowboys on the other hand, found enough rings to fit one hand.