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Football great, Earl Campbell, was born on March 29, 1955. He is a retired NFL running back and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Campbell's nickname is The Tyler Rose, a reference to his hometown of Tyler, Texas which is known as the "Rose Capital of America" for its prominent place in the rose-growing industry. He went to John Tyler High School.
Earl Campbell is one of the most notable running backs to ever play college football. Graduating from the University of Texas in 1977, he was the number 1 draft pick by the Houston Oilers and was voted Rookie of the Year as well as Most Valuable Player in his first professional year. By the end of his professional football career he had amassed 9,407 yards rushing, 806 yards receiving, 74 total touchdowns, and 10,213 total yards. He ranks tenth on the all-time rushing yards in the NFL and has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated six times.
Earl Campbell was the first draft pick overall in the 1978 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers, and in that year he was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press as well as the Most Valuable Player.
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 and being gang-tackled nearly every time he carried the ball (a then-record 373 times), Campbell managed to average 5.2 yards per carry and score 13 rushing touchdowns in 1980 alone.
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, a toll which has become apparent in his life today (see below).
Earl 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 thighs, 5-11, 244-pound frame, coupled with 4.8 speed, 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 ran the 4.4 40 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 Jacksonville Jaguars or most recently to some publicity with Gary Russell of the University of Minnesota.
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.
Since retiring from football, Earl Campbell is now a prominent businessman 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 proudly manufactures and sells Earl Campbell's ® Smoked Sausage and other wonderful food products and barbeque sauce.
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