Former Dallas Cowboy Herschel Walker was in Texoma Monday to talk about the impact civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had on his life.

This is the 16th year for annual MLK breakfast at Austin College. Each year, the college invites accomplished guests, ranging from doctors to athletes, to speak on their achievements and how they were made possible through the work of civil rights leaders.

Student speakers also take the stage to talk about the Civil Rights Movement.

“I told my son it was interesting because if I was born maybe 10 years earlier there may not have been a Herschel Walker,” Walker said. “Maybe even five years earlier and there might not have been a Hershel Walker.”

In mid-January, ESPN ranked Walker as the second greatest college player of all time.

Walker joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1986 in his first of two stints with the team following a short tenure in the United States Football League. Walker was selected as the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and would go on to be a two-time pro bowl player, among other awards.

Despite these athletic accomplishments on the field, Walker said was obese as a young child growing up in Georgia and would often end up in the corner at school. He said he was targeted by bullies during his school career and had a speech impediment.

“Martin Luther King Day is always special because I grew up in Atlanta and south Georgia and what King has done for me has been absolutely incredible,” he said.

Things changed as he got older and began to read and take his studies seriously. During his high school years, he also started his well-known exercise regimen that included nearly 1,000 push-ups and sit-ups each day.

“My whole life, I’ve kept getting up, because I’ve been knocked down so many times,” he said.

Walker said he did not initially intend to go into college or professional football, and instead planned to go into the military. However, after talking with his mother, he decided to decide with the flip of a coin. Walker then used the same method to determine which school he would go to with the University of Georgia winning every time.

Despite encouraging the student athletes in attendance to get out and work for their dreams, Walker said his dreams were made possible through those of MLK and other people who helped him along the way. Walker said he thought about all the people who worked to make him the man he was today, and the “many thank yous” he owed to people over the years.

“(It is) not just to my teammates, but to players who played way back when and people like Martin Luther King who gave me the right and privilege to do the things I had the opportunity to do,” he said.

The student keynote address was given by Timothy Crossley, a history major who plans to receive his masters degree in education at AC. Crossley spoke about King’s forward thinking nature and how his efforts not only improved life for those living during the civil rights era, but generations to come. These efforts were made so that the next generation wouldn’t have to live in the same conditions.

“Dr. King lived in a time when people hated and judged you just by the way you looked,” he said, noting King’s non-violent approach.

“He held marches, he boycotted, he peacefully protested,” Crossley continued. “Dr. King envisioned a dream in which people were judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. It was a dream he did not get to see.”