Herschel Walker was a stud. He won the Heisman Trophy with Georgia, and rushed for 5,562 yards in three seasons as running back for Donald Trump’s New Jersey Generals. In the NFL, Walker led the league in combined yards in 1987 and had a better year in 1988, rushing for 1,514 yards and adding on another 503 yards receiving. The problem was his Dallas Cowboys were terrible. The team had new ownership in Jerry Jones and a new coach in Jimmy Johnson. They needed to rebuild.
“My offensive coaches said, ‘Sheesh, if you trade Herschel, we won’t ever score a point,’” Johnson told the Dallas Morning News on the 30th anniversary of the trade. “I said, ‘Well, I’m not really concerned with scoring points this year. I’m concerned with getting good here in a couple of years. “
The Minnesota Vikings felt they were just one running back away from competing. So they sent the Cowboys five players:
Jesse Solomon, Issiac Holt, RB Darrin Nelson, David Howard and Alex Stewart. None of them had much of an impact. But the Vikings also included six draft picks.
One of those picks became Emmitt Smith, who alone would have made the trade lopsided, as he became the league’s all-time rushing leader. Smith led the league in rushing four times and was named Super Bowl MVP twice.
But another pick became safety Darren Woodson, who played 12 years for the Cowboys and made five Pro Bowls. Other players drafted with those picks included multi-year starters CB Kevin Smith and DT Russell Maryland.
Walker was mediocre in Minnesota, rushing for just 2,284 yards in 42 games. They lost their only playoff game with Walker.
The Cowboys went on to win three Super Bowls in four years.