On Tuesday, April 9, in Dallas, Highland Park High School became the 67th school in the nation to become an extension of the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the late , a Highland Park alumnus, was honored as a “Hometown Hall of Famer™” by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate.
A special plaque ceremony took place in the Highland Park gymnasium in front of the entire student body, faculty, family and friends to honor the legacy of the Hall of Fame halfback. Walker led the National Football League in scoring two seasons and was part of two Detroit Lion NFL Championships in 1952-53.
Randy Allen, head football coach for Highland Park, began the ceremony by talking about the impact had on the school and the football team, and the honor he brought to the Dallas community. Allen spoke of Walker’s sportsmanship and the legacy he left behind. “We have the 1943 Highland Park High School football goals posted in our locker room,” Allen told the audience. “Some of the ideas that his team wanted to pass on to future players included sportsmanship, playing smart and tough and conducting oneself in a manner on and off the field that not only glorifies the game of football but this high school.” Closing his remarks, he told the audience that the Highland Park football team strives to honor Walker’s legacy and principles both on and off the field every day.
Walker’s family including his first wife Norma Peterson Walker, sons Russell Walker and Scott Walker and daughters Kris Wolcott and Laurie Hunt, unveiled the plaque amidst cheers from the crowd and an energetic rendition of the school fight song played by the school band.
Laurie Hunt spoke first on behalf of her father and telling the crowd how humbled she was to hear people speak of his accomplishments, “The man we knew was not the NFL legend that so many of you know,” she said. “To us, he was simply Dad.” Hunt went on to say that, never once did her father let his achievements and successes get the better of him.
Russ Walker followed his sister and spoke of his father’s love for the game. He told the crowd that he and his siblings were of an age that they could understand what it meant to their father to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, “There are over 24,000 football players and only 280 enshrined,” Walker said. “This is a huge honor and I remember Dad said…‘now I can retire.’” His father epitomized leadership, sportsmanship and athletic achievement and he told the audience that he and his family ensure that they embody the man they still look to as a role model every day.
In addition to the plaque, a commemorative “Hometown Hall of Famer ™” road sign will be on display in Dallas at Highland Park High School.
Additional speakers included Hugo Valdes, a local Allstate agent and George Veras, president and CEO of Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises.
“The ‘Hometown Hall of Famer™’ plaque that we are presenting to the Walker family today is really a tribute to ’s hometown roots in Highland Park and Dallas,” said Veras. “This plaque will live at Highland Park and serve as an inspiration that anyone here in the audience could be a Hall of Famer in their own field, in their own way.”
After high school, Walker went on to play football at Southern Methodist University where he received the Heisman Trophy in 1948. He was drafted in the first round of the 1949 draft as a future choice by the Boston Yanks. His rights were traded to the Detroit Lions in 1950 and quickly erased any doubt that, at 5-11 and 173 pounds, he would be overwhelmed by the “big boys” of the NFL. In 1950, he was All-NFL, Rookie of the Year, the league-scoring champion, and selected to a Pro Bowl.
When Walker finished his six-season career after the 1955 campaign, he had been named All-NFL five times and selected to five Pro Bowls. It’s no coincidence that, during his pro career, the Lions enjoyed their finest years with three divisional titles and NFL championship victories over the Cleveland Browns in 1952 and 1953.
“Like and other Hall of Famers, we at Allstate know and understand the value of hometown pride,” said Valdes. “We work hard every day to protect what matters to people including their family and their legacies and like these Hall of Famers we help people achieve their goals and dreams.”
Walker was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. He passed away on Sept. 27, 1998, at the age of 71.
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