March, 20 2023
Earl Campbell’s toughness was personified by a run during his career with the Houston Oilers. He took a handoff and found his way blocked by Rams linebacker Isiah Robertson. Campbell lowered his head and hit Robertson directly in the sternum. The linebacker buckled to the ground, and Campbell continued running, breaking tackles by defenders who literally shredded his jersey until they stopped him. The run is a staple of NFL highlight films to this day.
Campbell developed that toughness early on. Raised in Tyler, TX, Campbell was just eleven when his father passed away. He worked in Tyler’s famous rose fields to help his mother and his ten siblings. His work ethic carried over into football. A two-way star (RB/LB) at John Tyler High, Campbell led the Lions to an undefeated season and a state title in 1973. Campbell scored the winning touchdown in the title game.
Campbell built a reputation as the “Human Wrecking Ball” as a Texas Longhorn from 1974-77. He led the Longhorns to an undefeated regular season in 1977, saving his toughest performance for the Longhorn’s biggest rival. He ran for 124 yards and the deciding touchdown against Oklahoma in a 13-6 victory. Making the feat even more impressive, Campbell ran through a defense that keyed entirely on him because Texas was down to its third-string quarterback. Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer said the reason Texas won was simple: “They had the best player. Earl Campbell.” He ended the season as the Heisman Trophy winner.
At 5’11” and 230 pounds, Campbell had unusual size and speed for a running back, and admitted he prided himself on being difficult to tackle. “I always thought is was (silly) for one man to tackle me” he said. “I wanted there to be a whole bunch of them.”
Campbell’s tough running style led to induction in the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is also an Official State Hero of Texas.