THOUSAND OAKS — The excitement of youngsters grew. Even the old-timers craned their necks. The Dallas Cowboys have had their share of superstars and super moments over the past 27 years. This moment seemed to fit in.
Monday at 2:43 p.m., the newest and the highest-paid member of the Dallas Cowboys emerged from the locker room at Cal Lutheran University.
"He's here, he's here," one small child announced to those in the crowd who cared. Many of them did.
Within seconds, Herschel Walker was surrounded by several fans who, if they didn't want their photo taken with him, at least wanted his autograph.
Walker's walk to the football field for practice was slowed as he stopped to sign all of the scraps of paper thrown at him. When he wasn't putting his name on a photographer's equipment bag or on footballs, Walker was doing another in a series of interviews.
It was a scene that would be repeated nearly three hours later when Walker returned to the locker room.
It was Herschel Walker's first day of practice in the National Football League. His first day with the Dallas Cowboys.
Last week, Walker signed a five-year, $5-million guaranteed contract, making him the highest-paid Cowboy player. The 6-1, 222-pound Heisman Trophy winner from Georgia gained more than 7,000 total yards in three seasons for the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.
But Monday, he was, as fellow running back Robert Lavette said, "just like one of the guys, a rookie." Lavette is a second-year pro from Georgia Tech.
Lavette added, however, that Walker "is a different kind of rookie."
In the morning, Walker worked out in shorts and a T-shirt, running through a series of no-contact plays with a center, quarterback Reggie Collier and running back Darryl Clack, the Cowboys' second-round draft pick this season.
In the afternoon, he worked in pads for the first time since the Generals' mini-camp in March.
"I'm beginning to recognize things," Walker said after the afternoon practice. "It went pretty well.
"I think getting into hitting shape will take a while. I can't say I'm in football shape because I have not played in a while."
Walker's last game was in June 1985 with the Generals.
Fellow running back Tony Dorsett was asked about Walker's first day.
"Well, the man's got to learn the offense," Dorsett said. "You can't just thrust him into the heat of the battle. I've got to concentrate on my job, not his."