“Oh man I was knocked unbelievable, but I had to take it like a man,” expresses E.C., vividly recalling his goal line confrontation with legendary Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum. “Ooh that man hit me!”
But for they better part of seven NFL seasons with the Houston Oilers, Earl Campbell ran with a punishing style of power and speed that delivered 9047 memorable rushing yards full of classic runs. “I think I would really love to see those first three touchdowns of the Miami game,” answers Earl when asked what run he would watch first in the soon to be built film room of his new home. In this MNF classic from November 20, 1978 where the soon by Rookie of The Year would rush for 199 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 35-3- comeback victory over the Dolphins, the Hall of Fame running back reveals “A lot of us didn’t have a chance to watch that Monday night game [because] Bum Phillips said, we all know we beat Miami so let’s go into next week.”
And of the man who would walk the sidelines of the Astrodome each and every Sunday in his Wrangler jeans and cowboy hat, who drafted 1978 Heisman Trophy winner first overall, laughs, “And he doesn’t know my name is Earl to this day. Everything is EC.”
E.C. may just as well stood for “excellent character” as the University of Texas Longhorn went to speech communication class to complete an exam on the day of the NFL Draft! UT teammate Alfred Jackson, who would go on to play for the Atlanta Falcons, informed Earl, “He’s [Phillips] looking for you. He called three times.” And to this day the athlete Earl Campbell, now turned businessman via his Earl Campbell Meat Products, still stresses education, “to the young athletes, go to school, get an education,” to be the best you can be, “and you can’t do that if you don’t have degrees.”
And from who did Earl find his off-the-field business inspiration from, none other than The Juice. “O.J. Simpson was the epitome of everything a Black athlete wanted to be. He set the perfect example for what a man wanted to do on the football field, but what a man could accomplish off the football field as a Black athlete. He was unbelievable, “ remarks Campbell who received his Heisman Award from the Buffalo Bills famous number 32. “When I was going on stage, I heard this voice behind a curtain say,” recalls the Earl, ‘You may want to hurry back to your seat.’ And looking back on those years, that voice was O.J. Simpson.”
On the field, E.C. had a voice of his own leading the NFL in total yard rushing for each of first three season, a feat to which he credits the predecessor of number 32, Cleveland Brown Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown. “That’s one of the greatest things I learned from Jim Brown, was how to stiff arm people,” reveals Campbell who watched Brown’s training films while playing at the University of Texas. “Jim Brown was my hero. This guy was spinning. He was knocking guys down. That’s the kind of running back I want to be,” shared the Tyler, Texas native.
Notwithstanding a final 1985 season with the New Orleans Saints, the former Texas Longhorn and Houston Oiler played his entire football career in the state of Texas. “There is nothing like the state of Texas and their football,” explains The Tyler Rose, who admits “I never wanted him [Tony Dorsett] to out do me in the state of Texas. That’s my home turf,” when asked about 1977 Heisman Trophy winner and star running back for the Dallas Cowboys who carry the pigskin at the same time in the Lone Star state. “We respected each other and we were good friends,” stated Campbell, who says the same about Pittsburgh Steelers legend Mean Joe Greene, “those where great rivals, but we were great friends.”
“You laid everything you had on the field. Then that’s all you had was your best.” And for each of those 9,407 yards Earl Campbell gave us the best of combination of power, speed and punishment the NFL has ever seen!