Former Viking Walker helping others in need

Herschel Walker (Anna Webber/Getty)

Former Vikings running back Herschel Walker is helping military personnel who may end up struggling with mental illness. He comes from a place of experience after pulling a gun on a business partner eight years ago, the moment that led to him seeking help.

For those who covered Herschel Walker when he was a member of the Minnesota Vikings, there was a sense of frustration at times because Walker would consistently refer to himself in the third person. At the time, people didn't understand why he did so, but Walker is now helping military personnel who have mental health issues or potential issues deal with the problem.

On an NFL Network interview, Walker explained that in 2008 he confessed in a book he co-wrote that he suffered from Associative Identity Disorder, which is more commonly referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder. The disease almost led him to killing a business partner.

In 2005, Walker checked himself into a mental health facility to deal with his problem. He wasn't suicidal. He was homicidal. When he pulled a gun and pointed it at the head at a business associate, it was his wake-up call that he had a significant problem.

"When I got out of football, I had a beautiful wife, we were getting ready to have a baby, everything was cool and OK," Walker said. "But something just wasn't right. At the time I went to seek help, I spent 30 days in a hospital – you could call it a mental hospital, whatever you want to say. The hospital saved my life."

Walker explained that he had a gun in hand and was ready to pull the trigger on the business partner. If not for a bumper sticker that said "Honk if you love Jesus" his life could have been very different. It was that incident that got Walker to seek help and he has been part of the Patriot Support Program ever since – currently serving as its national spokesman. He has visited 60 military bases spreading the word that soldiers may have similar feelings to what he had and, if they do, they should seek help before tragedy strikes.

"That's the reason when I go to these bases, I throw it in their faces," Walker said. "I've been in that dark place and I let them know that."

Walker has visited a base every month for the past several years and, as the country gets back to work after honoring its fallen veterans as part of Memorial Day, Walker believes he is changing lives one at a time. He was able to turn his life around and become a success story rather than a statistic and he hopes that his new role as a goodwill ambassador for the program may save the lives of others.

"If you're struggling with something, don't be ashamed to step up and say, ‘I need help,'" Walker said. "If you're going through anything or if you see a friend going through anything, don't be afraid to help them out. We all struggle. We all go through something. What you have to do is stand up sometimes and say, ‘It's OK. I can make it. I can go one more round.'"


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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