As Herschel Walker eyes Senate run, a turbulent past emerges (2024)

ATLANTA (AP) — A homegrown football hero and businessman supported by his longtime friend Donald Trump, Herschel Walker has an attractive profile for Republicans looking to reclaim a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia.

But as he decides whether to run, a more complex picture is taking shape. An Associated Press review of Walker’s statements over the years, along with a cache of public records, some including previously unreported details, reflects a pattern of turbulent and sometimes threatening behavior that could dog Walker’s Senate bid.

The documents detail accusations of threats Walker made on his ex-wife’s life, exaggerated claims about private-sector success and erratic behavior that disturbed his business allies. The account come on top of Walker’s previous disclosures about his history of struggling with mental illness.

That worries some Republicans in Washington and Georgia as they chart a path back to a Senate majority in the 2022 midterm elections. Their concern is that the 59-year-old political novice could win the GOP nomination with his fame and Trump’s help, but falter against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Georgia’s first Black senator, Warnock won a special election in January and will seek a full six-year term next year.

Walker “certainly could bring a lot of things to the table,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said in a recent interview. “But as others have mentioned, there’s also a lot of questions out there.”

A native of tiny Wrightsville, between Atlanta and Savannah, Walker has yet to announce his intentions. He’s consulted with Georgia political players but has no visible operation in the state and resides in Texas. In a cryptic social media video last month, Walker revs the engine of a car and says, “I’m getting ready, and we can run with the big dogs,” before revealing a Georgia license plate.

The move amplified chatter about his potential candidacy but also drew a spotlight on his past.

Walker disclosed his mental illness in a 2008 book, “Breaking Free,” detailing a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. In that account, Walker told of as many as a dozen personalities — or “alters” — that he’d constructed as a defense mechanism against the bullying he suffered as a stuttering, overweight child.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness describes the disorder as “alternating between multiple identities,” leaving a person with “gaps in memory of every day events.” It notes men with the disorder often “exhibit more violent behavior rather than amnesia.”

In his book, Walker acknowledged violent urges. He wrote that he played Russian roulette, and recalled sitting at his kitchen table in 1991 pointing a gun, loaded with a single bullet, at his head. “I wasn’t suicidal,” Walker explained, but “just looked at mortality as the ultimate challenge.”

Walker pitched a turnaround story, saying he decided in 2001 that “it was time to stop running and face some harsh realities.” He cited therapy and his Christian faith as influences.

His watershed moment: driving his car to confront a man who’d “messed up my schedule” and thinking about what it’d be like to shoot the man. Walker changed course, he wrote, after seeing a bumper sticker with the message “SMILE. JESUS LOVES YOU.”

Yet Walker’s violent behavior continued well after the 2001 revelation and his efforts to get help, according to court records obtained by the AP.

Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, noted his outbursts in their divorce proceedings, telling of “physically abusive and threatening behavior.” In 2005, four years after she’d sued for divorce, Grossman returned to the court for a protective order after Walker repeatedly voiced a desire and an intent to kill her and her boyfriend.

According to a previously unreported affidavit from Grossman’s sister, Maria Tsettos, Walker called looking for his ex-wife while she was out with her new boyfriend. Tsettos took the call and said Walker became “very threatening” when told of Grossman’s whereabouts. In Tsettos’ recollection, Walker “stated unequivocally that he was going to shoot my sister Cindy and her boyfriend in the head.”

Walker contacted Tsettos another time and repeated the threats in graphic terms, and, according to Grossman’s account to the court, Walker confronted her in public later that day: He “slowly drove by in his vehicle, pointed his finger at (her) and traced (her) with his finger as he drove.”

In granting a protective order against Walker, a Texas judge stripped Walker’s rights to possess a firearm for a time.

Walker, contacted through his sister as well as his longtime attorney, did not respond to AP inquiries. Grossman and Tsettos also did not reply to requests for comment.

Concerns about Walker’s behavior carried into his chicken business, now known as Renaissance Man Food Services, according to court filings.

Walker has said his company employed hundreds of people, included chicken processing plants in Arkansas and grossed $70 million to $80 million annually in sales. Yet when Walker applied for the federal Paycheck Protection Program last year, his company reported just eight employees, receiving $182,000 in aid.

In a recent court case, Walker indicated the company averaged about $1.5 million in yearly profit from 2008 to 2017. Meanwhile, Walker’s business associates testified in the same case that he doesn’t own chicken processing plants, as he claims. Instead, they described him as a licensing partner who lends his name to the enterprise.

Records generated in a 2018 wrongful termination suit — the employee ultimately lost — depict Walker as a temperamental and unreliable partner.

Walker persistently complained that his business partners were trying to cheat him out of money, the documents say. And they indicate he repeatedly fought with his associates over his focus on branching into frozen waffles, which he believed would be a future moneymaker for the company.

In a deposition, Walker dismissed his former employee as a “puppy.”

“I’m a big dog,” Walker said. “I don’t play with puppies.”


Slodysko reported from Washington; Bleiberg reported from Dallas.

As Herschel Walker eyes Senate run, a turbulent past emerges (2024)


As Herschel Walker eyes Senate run, a turbulent past emerges? ›

The documents detail accusations that Walker repeatedly threatened his ex-wife's life, exaggerated claims of financial success and alarmed business associates with unpredictable behavior.

When did Herschel Walker run for the Senate? ›

Herschel Junior Walker (born March 3, 1962) is an American former football running back who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 12 seasons. He was also the Republican nominee in the 2022 United States Senate election in Georgia.

What are some important facts about Herschel Walker? ›

Walker earned consensus All-American honors three consecutive years, set 10 NCAA records, 15 Southeastern Conference records, 30 Georgia all-time records, and capped a sensational college career by earning the coveted Heisman Trophy in his junior year.

How was Herschel Walker diagnosed? ›

Walker sought help from Jerry Mungadze, a therapist who gave him a diagnosis of D.I.D. and arranged for him to be treated as an outpatient at Del Amo psychiatric hospital in Torrance, Calif., where doctors confirmed the diagnosis, Mr. Walker wrote. Dr. Mungadze, who wrote the introduction to Mr.

Was Herschel Walker valedictorian? ›

While Walker was a top student at his high school and the president of the Beta Club – he maintained an “A” average to be in the school's Beta Club – CNN's KFile found no evidence he was the class valedictorian.

Who did Hershel Walker run against? ›

Incumbent Raphael Warnock defeated Herschel Walker in the general runoff election for U.S. Senate Georgia on December 6, 2022.

Why did Herschel Walker lose? ›

Democrats, as well as his Republican opponents in the earlier primary, hammered away at his documented past mental health issues, allegations of domestic violence (some of which Walker has acknowledged, pointing to his mental health as a factor in his actions), and claims – which Walker has denied – that he had urged ...

DID Herschel Walker lift weight? ›

Even though Walker didn't lift weights in college, when the team did a bench press test, he hoisted an astonishing 375 lbs (the most, his coach said, anyone had lifted on the BP at Georgia up until that time), and did 222 lbs (his body weight) for 24 reps.

What NFL player has multiple personality disorder? ›

Herschel Walker, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 and later set a single-season pro football rushing record with 2,411 yards, told Soldiers he was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder) following an exceptional football career.

Can someone with DID be cured? ›

There isn't a cure for DID. But your symptoms can get better. You'll need to manage the condition for your entire life. This can feel overwhelming, but your provider will help you find the right treatment or combination of treatments so symptoms don't take over.

Why isn't Herschel Walker in the NFL Hall of Fame? ›

Walker was a great athlete and put up great stats, but he only made two Pro Bowls throughout his NFL career. The most significant moment of Walker's career was a part of the trade that started the Cowboys dynasty. The other problem with Herschel Walker is that he spent the first three years of his career in the USFL.

Did Herschel Walker play in the NFL? ›

Walker would later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Walker played professional football, originally for the New Jersey Generals of the US Football League, playing there for three years (1983-85) but later moved to the NFL where he started with the Dallas Cowboys.

Did Herschel Walker win a Super Bowl? ›

Herschel Walker's NFL career

He didn't win any major awards or a Super Bowl. But that shouldn't distract from the fact that the running back did have a solid career. He amassed over 8,000 rushing yards in his 13-year career and scored 61 touchdowns. He even recorded nearly 5,000 receiving yards.

Who won the Senate in 2014? ›

The Republicans regained the majority of the Senate in the 114th Congress, which started in January 2015; the Republicans had not controlled the Senate since January 2007. They needed a net gain of at least six seats to obtain a majority and were projected by polls to do so.

Who was the first millennial U.S. senator? ›

Ossoff is the first Millennial senator to be elected.

Who held the Senate in 2001? ›

Senator Thomas Daschle served as majority leader at that time. Beginning on January 20, 2001, Republican vice president Richard Cheney held the deciding vote, giving the majority to the Republicans. Senator Trent Lott resumed his position as majority leader on that date.

Who had the Senate in 1994? ›

November 8, 1994: Republican Revolution: The Republican Party won control of both the House and the Senate in midterm congressional elections, the first time in 40 years the Republicans secured control of both houses of Congress.

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