Earl Campbell

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This article is about the American football player. For the Canadian hockey player, see Earl Campbell (ice hockey).
Earl Campbell
Earl campbell shaggybevo.jpg
Earl Campbell signing autographs in Kerrville, Texas.
No. 20, 34, 35
Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1955-03-29) March 29, 1955 (age 59)
Place of birth: Tyler, Texas
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) Weight: 245 lb (111 kg)
Career information
High school: Tyler (TX) John Tyler
College: Texas
NFL Draft: 1978 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Debuted in 1978 for the Houston Oilers
Last played in 1985 for the New Orleans Saints
Career history
Career highlights and awards

College

NFL

Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards 9,407
Rushing Average 4.3
Touchdowns 74
Stats at NFL.com

Earl Christian Campbell (born March 29, 1955), nicknamed The Tyler Rose, is a former professional American football running back. He, Paul Hornung, and O. J. Simpson are the only Heisman Trophy winners to have also been first overall National Football League draft picks and members of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame.[1]

He was born in Tyler, Texas, the sixth of eleven children. His father died when Campbell was 11 years old. He began playing football in fifth grade as a kicker, but moved to linebacker and then to running back in sixth grade. In 1973, he led the Corky Nelson-coached John Tyler High School to the Texas 4A State Championship (4A then was the largest classification in the state). Then-Oklahoma Sooners head coach Barry Switzer, who unsuccessfully recruited Campbell, said in his 1989 book that Campbell was the only player he ever saw who could have gone straight from high school to the NFL and immediately become a star.[2]

College and professional career[edit]

As a collegiate football player at the University of Texas at Austin, he won the Heisman Trophy in 1977 and led the nation in rushing with 1,744 yards. In 1977, he became the first recipient of the Davey O'Brien Memorial Trophy which was awarded to the outstanding player in the now-defunct Southwest Conference. He was also a consensus All-America choice in 1977. Additionally, he was a First-team All-America selection by the AFCA in 1975. He was selected as the Southwest Conference running back of the year in each of his college seasons and finished with 4,444 career rushing yards. While at UT, he was also a member of the Texas Cowboys.

Houston Oilers[edit]

Campbell was the first draft pick overall in the 1978 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers, who signed him to a six-year, $1.4 million contract. That year Campbell was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press as well as the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. The Luv Ya Blue era in Houston was due mostly to Campbell's running ability and Coach Bum Phillips' "good ole boy" personality.

Campbell possessed a rare combination of speed and power, and was a prolific running back from 1978 through 1985. His outstanding single-season performance in 1979 earned him All-Pro, Pro Bowl, and NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors. It was also the second of three consecutive seasons in which he led the league in rushing. Only Jim Brown had previously accomplished that feat. Campbell led the NFL in rushing in 1978, 1979, and 1980. He played in five Pro Bowls and finished his career with 9,407 yards and 74 touchdowns rushing along with 806 yards on 121 receptions. In 1980, Campbell's best year in the NFL, he ran for 1,934 yards including four 200-yard rushing games, including a personal best 206 yards against the Chicago Bears. Despite playing against stacked defenses Campbell managed to average 5.2 yards per carry and score 13 rushing touchdowns in 1980 alone.

New Orleans Saints[edit]

In 1984, he was traded to the New Orleans Saints, reuniting him with his former Oilers coach O.A. "Bum" Phillips. The trade was controversial in New Orleans, as it was widely believed that Campbell's skills had diminished, and the Saints already had the young George Rogers in the backfield. Campbell played in a diminished role in 1984 and 1985, and retired during the preseason of 1986, feeling that the beating he had taken during his career had taken too much of a toll.

Hall of Fame[edit]

On July 27, 1991, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Legacy[edit]

Campbell is widely acknowledged as one of the best power backs in NFL history. Described as a "one-man demolition team", Campbell was a punishing runner. His 34-inch (860 mm) thighs, 5-11, 244-pound frame, coupled with 10.5 seconds in the 100 meters and 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, made him the most feared runner of his time. Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene claimed that Campbell could inflict more damage on a team than any other back he ever faced.

Former Heisman Trophy winner and Miami Dolphins player Ricky Williams was often compared to Campbell during Williams' days as a player with The University of Texas Longhorns. Even now, short running backs that use powerful legs to their advantage are occasionally nicknamed "Little Earl", for example Maurice Jones-Drew of the Oakland Raiders, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens and Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[3]

The pride that prodded Campbell to stretch out every run over eight grueling seasons for the Oilers and New Orleans Saints also might have been responsible for his relatively short career. All of the pounding he absorbed, all of the bone-jarring blows from second, third and fourth tacklers wore down his body and prompted a premature drop-off in performance. Debate still rages as to whether Coach Bum Phillips hastened the end of Campbell's career by overworking him; nevertheless, the consensus is clear that during Campbell's heyday, few running backs were as productive or imposing.[citation needed]

Honors[edit]

In 1999, he was ranked number 33 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players,[4] the highest-ranked player for the Houston Oilers franchise. In 2007, he was ranked #12 on ESPN's Top 25 Players In College Football History list.[5]

The Statue of Earl Campbell at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Campbell, The University of Texas’ first Heisman Trophy winner in 1977, was honored at halftime against Ohio State on September 9, 2006 including the unveiling of a 9-foot (2.7 m) statue of Campbell in the southwest corner of Royal-Memorial Stadium. The same year, Campbell graced the cover of Dave Campbell's Texas Football, an honor that eluded him during his playing days.

In 1977, he became the first recipient of the Davey O'Brien Memorial Trophy which was named after the great TCU quarterback Davey O'Brien. The trophy was awarded to the most outstanding player in the Southwest Conference.

In 2013, the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, an award to be given to the best Division 1 player with Texas ties, was named in Campbell's honor.

Personal life[edit]

Due to the many carries in his NFL career and numerous hits on his body, Campbell has great difficulty walking and sometimes requires the use of a wheelchair. In 2004, ESPN showed a segment about retired and current NFL players who deal with chronic injuries due to playing in the NFL over a number of years. The segment showed Earl Campbell at a farm using a wheelchair. Campbell has developed severe arthritis in his knees and has debilitating back pain. He attributes his back pain to a congenital back condition aggravated by his football career.

A profile in the Austin American-Statesman in December 2007 describes Campbell's daily struggle with his back pain, and states that he had surgery to remove three large bone spurs.[6]

Earl is now a prominent businessman residing in Austin, Texas and still actively participates in University of Texas Athletics. Earl Campbell currently serves as President of Earl Campbell Meat Products, Inc. which manufactures and sells Earl Campbell's Smoked Sausage and other food products and barbecue sauce.[7] Campbell and his associates also opened a restaurant on Sixth Street in Austin, Earl Campbell's Lone Star BBQ, which closed in 2001.[8]

Campbell has two sons, Christian and Tyler. Christian played high school football with Reid Brees, nephew of his father's former Longhorns teammate Marty Akins, at Westlake High and ran track for the University of Houston.[9] Tyler was a running back for Pasadena City College and San Diego State[10] but was forced to give up the sport due to multiple sclerosis (MS).[11] He returned to Texas after graduation and divides his time between the family business and raising awareness of MS with his father.[12][13]

Career rushing statistics[edit]

Year Team Games Attempts Yards YPC TDs
1978 Houston Oilers 15 302 1,450 4.8 13
1979 Houston Oilers 16 368 1,697 4.6 19
1980 Houston Oilers 15 373 1,934 5.2 13
1981 Houston Oilers 16 361 1,376 3.8 10
1982 Houston Oilers 9 157 538 3.4 2
1983 Houston Oilers 14 322 1,301 4.0 12
1984 Houston Oilers 6 96 278 2.9 4
New Orleans Saints 8 50 190 3.8 0
1984 Total 14 146 468 3.4 4
1985 New Orleans Saints 16 158 643 4.1 1
Career 118 2,187 9,407 4.3 78

References[edit]

External links[edit]