ATLANTA – Former President Donald Trump has endorsed University of Georgia football great Herschel Walker for the U.S. Senate and state Sen. Burt Jones for lieutenant governor.

Trump’s friendship with Walker goes back to 1984, when Walker signed with the United States Football League’s New Jersey Generals, a team Trump owned.

Trump urged Walker to seek the Republican nomination for the Senate seat now held by Democrat Raphael Warnock for weeks before Walker entered the race last week.

“Herschel Walker is a friend, a patriot and an outstanding American who is going to be a great United States senator,” Trump wrote in his endorsement statement. “Herschel is tough on crime and borders, and he will always stand in support of law enforcement, military and our vets. He will fight hard for our Second Amendment and voter  integrity.”

“Thank you to my friend President Trump for your support and encouragement!” Walker said. “Together, we will win back the U.S. Senate for Georgia!”

The Republican field in the 2022 Senate race also includes Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black; Latham Saddler, an Atlanta banking executive and former Navy SEAL officer; and Kelvin King, a small business owner and Air Force veteran also from Atlanta.

Jones, R-Jackson, was the first elected official in Georgia to support Trump for president back in 2016 and served as  Trump campaign co-chairman in Georgia in 2016 and 2020.

 Jones also was among a group of Senate Republicans who asked Gov. Brian Kemp to call a special session of the General Assembly shortly after last November’s elections to consider changes to Georgia’s election laws.

The group conducted hearings inside the state Capitol in December that lent ammunition to Trump’s claims of election fraud, which were subsequently dismissed in the courts.

“I am the only person in my race who has had the president’s back from day one, and it’s an honor to have his full support,” Jones said. “As lieutenant governor, I will work to advance the president’s America First agenda and continue to grow our economy, improve our schools, secure our elections, and keep Georgia safe.”

Also vying for the next year’s Republican nomination for lieutenant governor are state Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller of Gainesville and GOP activist Jeanne Seaver of Savannah.

Two Democratic state representatives, Erick Allen of Smyrna and Derrick Jackson of Tyrone, also are looking to step up to lieutenant governor.

The current lieutenant governor, Republican Geoff Duncan, is not seeking reelection.