No List of East Texas Football Legends is Complete Without Earl Campbell
It's hard to find an athlete that's had more of an impact on his hometown than Earl Campbell. He has a street named in his honor in Tyler, the field at Rose Stadium bears his name and his "Tyler Rose" nickname strikes a chord nationwide.
Campbell led John Tyler High School to a state championship in 1973, won a Heisman Trophy in 1977 at the University of Texas and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991 after a brilliant NFL career with the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints.
If there was a Mount Rushmore of sports figures from the state of Texas, Campbell certainly would deserve a spot.
Campbell played both linebacker and running back at JT, but did not start full-time at running back until his senior year in 1973. The Lions went 15-0 that year, winning the 4A state title game 21-14 over Austin Reagan.
Several schools were after the beast of a young man. Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer wrote in his 1989 book that Campbell was the only player he thought could make the jump from high school to the NFL.
Despite that bode of confidence, Campbell opted to sign with coach Darrell Royal and the Texas Longhorns.
In 1977, Campbell led the nation in rushing with 1,744 yards and became the first Texas player to win the Heisman Trophy.
Not surprisingly, the Houston Oilers made Campbell the No. 1 overall pick in the 1978 NFL draft and Campbell's impact was felt immediately.
As a rookie, Campbell ran for a league-high 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns and was named both the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year. Campbell also led the NFL rushing in 1979 and 1980, becoming only the second player in league history to lead the NFL in three consecutive seasons. The legendary Jim Brown was the first.
Following six years with the Oilers, Campbell was traded to the Saints in middle of the 1984. He finished his career in 1985 with 9,407 rushing yards and 74 touchdowns.
Campbell's post-football career was been a painful, yet financially rewarding one. He's had chronic physical problems as a result of his playing days over the last several years. Campbell, 57, is confined to a wheelchair most of the time these days.
In addition to his success on the football field, Campbell is the president of Earl Campbell Meat Products, Inc., which sells Earl Campbell's Smoked Sausage as well as other food products.
He currently resides in Austin and remains an avid supporter for Texas Longhorn athletics.