I received a message from Mitchell and Ness that reminded me that today is Earl Campbell’s birthday.
Earl Christian Campbell was born at home 56 years ago today in Tyler, Texas. Campbell’s mother Ann gave her new son the first and middle name of the doctor who brought him into the world.
Campbell starred at John Tyler High School and was heavily recruited as a senior running back. According to Campbell, his top two college choices were Oklahoma and Texas.
Campbell did not go easy on then-Longhorns head coach Darrell Royal. Royal, due to his reluctance to integrate the Texas Longhorns football program, had long been accused of being a racist. During one recruiting visit, Campbell said to Royal, “I hear you don’t like black people.”
Royal convinced Campbell that he was not a racist, and that the University of Texas would be a great place for the high school star to play football and get a degree.
At the end of Campbell’s final year at the University of Texas, he was awarded the Heisman Trophy. A few months later, the Houston Oilers drafted Campbell number one overall in the 1978 draft.
The Tyler Rose only played eight NFL seasons, but he literally and figuratively made an impact on the league, and on opposing defenders. One of his most famous highlights shows Campbell burying his helmet into the chest of Los Angeles Ram linebacker Isiah Robertson.
Campbell was named the NFL’s most valuable player in 1978, 0979 and 1980. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
As a young football fan, I was impressed by Campbell’s humility, faith, and punishing running style. Today, I’m happy that Campbell played for both my alma mater and my favorite professional football team.
I’m saddened by the toll the game took on Campbell, but I’d guess that if he had to do it again, he would run with the same fierceness and determination he displayed during his short professional career.
You can get a fine number 34 Earl Campbell jersey from Mitchell and Ness for $225.
Happy birthday, Mr. Campbell.
Blair, Sam. The Driving Force (1980). Word Books
Pro Football Reference: Earl Campbell