One thing I am sure of is that Ichiro would have had more (MLB) hits had he come up in the American system, likely reaching the majors well before age 27. He gets some credit for this. When the Hall of Fame selections are being debated, you can be sure that the 4,000+ number and his accomplishments before he broke down the door to MLB will be considered in some fashion.
That brings me to Herschel Walker. By the same accounting method applied to Ichiro, Walker has 20,120 yards rushing and receiving as a professional, which would place him 4th on this list, behind only Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and Walter Payton. That’s pretty rare company, though Herschel Walker is not in the Hall of Fame. Herschel Walker, of course, played for three years in the USFL before moving to the NFL. If we consider only his 13,084 yards in the NFL, he comes in at 38th overall, and 25th in yards among running backs.
Other Hall of Famers have had their time in another league, the CFL, cited as part of their case (Warren Moon comes to mind). With Walker, the question is how much credit do we give for his time in the USFL. We cannot give full credit, as the USFL played an 18 game schedule and Walker accumulated those numbers over more games from age 21 to 23 than a similar player in the NFL. We also are doing a disservice to ignore that he chose a different path.Lisk notes the problems with the 'diminished competition' argument (it was also diminished in the NFL due to splitting talent). He also notes that USFL teams scored fewer points per game during the same time period than NFL teams.
He also puts together a nice statistical comparison with other backs that played in the USFL and then the NFL: Kelvin Bryant, Joe Cribbs, and Gary Anderson.
Basically, he found that a USFL yard is roughly equal to .86 NFL yard (which is basically due to the extra two games per season). I could argue with that particular methodology and sample size, but taking the premise on it's face, he finds that Herschel would have gained enough yards to be 5th on the all time list. However, my main concern is it ignores one of the biggest problems with Herschel's jump to the USFL in the first place: Who would have drafted Herschel?
The Bills held the first draft pick and ended up with HOF'er Bruce Smith. Considering they had Joe Cribbs, who the year before had 1600+ yards from scrimmage and had just drafted Greg Bell in the first round the year before out of Notre Dame, it would be an interesting pick to grab another top tier running back, although it wouldn't be a stretch. However, the more likely place would be to the number 2 team, the Houston Oilers. The Oilers had Warren Moon behind center and nothing else on offense.
You think that combo would be a pretty potent one? You think Herschel would have been limited to under 1500 yards total offense, which is his per season average his first three years in the NFL? Even if he'd gone to the Bills, I think he gets 1500 (because Vince Ferragamo).
I personally think he's being punished for opening up the Junior rule and being the highest profile player to sign with the USFL. You combine that with The Herschel Walker Trade, and folks significantly down play his actual production.
Then again, maybe it is the pepsi at his restaurant in Athens.
Whatever it is, it is time for Herschel Walker to be enshrined in Canton.