Herschel Walker has personality disorder
Herschel Walker led the Georgia Bulldogs to an NCAA title as a freshman and was one of the most dominant players in U.S. college football history. Fifteen years later, he left the NFL ranked second in all-purpose yards and even competed in the Olympics.
But to feed his appetite for the ultimate competitive high, Walker turned to cheating death by playing Russian roulette.
Walker makes the shocking revelation in his recently released book, Breaking Free.
In it, Walker discloses he has dissociative identity disorder, or DID, a form of mental illness that was commonly referred to as multiple personality disorder.
"I played Russian roulette," Walker told the Canadian Press in a telephone interview.
"People think that's me trying to commit suicide. And I'm like, 'Guys, it has nothing to do with suicide.'
"That's the ultimate game of winning and losing. You either win or you're going to lose.
"I'm such a competitor. That's why I played Russian roulette."
Walker isn't sure how many alternate personalities, or alters as they're called, he has, but suggests in the book it's around 12.
Most are aimed at doing good; however, Walker says others are capable of doing harm — both to him and others.
Walker said he's been in treatment for about eight years and believes the disorder is under control.
Walker was a model of control and calm during the 20-minute interview.
He answered every question respectfully and in a concise manner, and handled himself with decorum and professionalism.
But in the opening chapter of the book, Walker describes having thoughts of wanting to kill a person following the late delivery of a car he had ordered.
That incident convinced Walker he had a problem and needed professional help.
"I wrote the book because I want to help people," Walker said. "It's about showing people you can come to terms with your problems and, hopefully, help them break down the stereotypes of DID.
"When I first heard about multiple personality disorder, I thought of the movie Sybil. When I first learned about it and the doctor told me, I told him I thought he was crazy.
"I started laughing. Then, he started giving me descriptions of some of the symptoms and what it was and I said, 'It does look like my life. It does look like what has happened.' "
Traces back to childhood
Walker traces his DID back to his childhood.
Growing up in Georgia, Walker said he was often teased by other kids because he was overweight and had a speech impediment.
To cope with the ridicule, Walker's competitive personality quickly took over.
Immediately, he adopted a crash exercise regimen of pushups, situps and running while also reading almost any book he could get his hands on.
The end result was that Walker not only became the valedictorian of his class, but also one of the most sought-after high school football players in the United States.
"Is that not the sign of a coping mechanism?" he said. "It [DID] is just a coping mechanism people use to overcome trauma."
Walker's revelation is, indeed, startling, given that even those close to him, including his father and Vince Dooley, Walker's coach at Georgia, never knew of his condition.
Then again, when the North American sporting public saw Walker, he was usually either running over or away from an overmatched opponent.
The six-foot-one Walker was a chiselled 225 pounds who also possessed world-class speed.
He captured All-American honours three straight years, led Georgia to national prominence as a freshman and captured the 1982 Heisman Trophy, awarded to the best U.S. college football player, as a junior.
That year, Walker ran a world-record time of 6.15 seconds in the 60-yard dash.
Trouble is, Walker says he doesn't even remember winning the Heisman.
Starred in USFL and NFL
Walker skipped his senior season to turn pro, joining the New Jersey Generals of the now-defunct USFL.
Walker was a dominant player in the upstart league, which lasted just three seasons (1983-85).
Twice, he was its leading rusher and, in 1985, with former CFL star Doug Flutie at quarterback, Walker captured the league's most valuable player trophy after running for 2,411 yards.
When the USFL ceased play, Walker headed to the NFL and was with four teams before retiring after the 1997 season.
But Walker was more than just a football player.
He also danced for the Fort Worth and New York Ballet and was seventh in the two-man bobsleigh with partner Brian Shimer at the 1992 Albertville Olympic Winter Games.
In 1999, he was inducted into the U.S. college football hall of fame.
Football kept DID in check
Walker, 46, said football allowed him to not only keep his personalities in check, but let the good ones flourish because they helped him focus on being a great athlete and student.
But it's when Walker was finished playing football and no longer had a dominant common goal that problems began to arise.
Walker's ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, told CNN recently that Walker had held a gun to her head and threatened her with knives.
Again, Walker said he doesn't remember the incidents because blackouts are a symptom of DID.
"That's why I did the book," Walker said. "I know now God really doesn't care about my football days.
"What he really cares about is me helping someone else. I think had I not helped somebody else, I would've been totally wrong because I've been able to see something not a lot of people have seen."
Walker's biggest regret is that DID cost him his 19-year marriage.
These days, Walker is living in Dallas.
He owns a food company — Renaissance Man Food Service in Georgia — that supplies poultry and some pork items to various casinos, hotels and restaurants.
"The biggest thing is admitting you have a problem and getting it treated," Walker said. "It's OK to go get help.
"Don't hide, don't be ashamed. Let people know you've got a problem because, I think, admitting you're wrong and need help makes you stronger."