Few players over the years have struck fear in the hearts and minds of would-be tacklers like legendary Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell. At 235 pounds with a low center of gravity and tremendous lower-body strength, he was a load to bring down and often dished out more punishment than he took. Known affectionately as The Tyler Rose, Campbell was a thorn in the side of his opposition, and not many defenders relished the challenge of trying to bring him down one on one.
The first selection overall in the 1978 NFL Draft, the Heisman Trophy-winning Campbell found immediate success, averaging 4.8 yards per carry in his first season and posting an impressive 1,450 yards, which was good enough to earn him Rookie of the Year
honors. He was also named Offensive Player of the Year
for his efforts, earned All Pro honors, and made the first of his five Pro Bowl appearances.
With an incredible combination of speed and power, Campbell produced more than 1,300 yards on the ground in each of his first four seasons in the league, and posted a total of 55 rushing touchdowns over that same period. His career peaked in 1980, when he ran for 1,934 yards while posting a gaudy 5.2 yards-per-carry average. He also rushed for more than 200 yards four times that season, including a personal best 206 yards against the Chicago Bears.
Campbell went on to lead the NFL in rushing in each of his first three years in the league, making him the only back other than Jim Brown
to win the rushing title in three consecutive seasons. He was named NFL MVP
in 1979, and although teams routinely game planned to focus on stopping him, he still was nearly unstoppable over a four-year stretch.
Campbell will always be remembered as one of the best power backs to ever play the game, and one of the top running backs of all time
. However, it was his bruising style of play that likely led to his career winding down prematurely. His body simply took a beating, and he struggled with health issues into his retirement because of it.
Despite a career that was shortened by the pounding he took, Campbell still managed to finished his career with 9,407 yards and 74 touchdowns rushing along with 806 yards on 121 receptions. He was a perennial Pro Bowler, three-time All Pro selection, and three-time Offensive Player of the Year. He never, however, had the opportunity to play in an NFL championship game.
Campbell played the majority of his career with the Oilers, but was traded to the New Orleans Saints for a first-round draft pick in 1984. By that point, however, his skills had begun to deteriorate and his production declined sharply. He played just a year and a half with the Saints before retiring after the 1985 season.
He received football's highest honor in 1991 when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Earl Christian Campbell, March 29, 1955, in Tyler, Texas
Drafted: Earl Campbell was drafted No. 1 overall by the Houston Oilers in the 1978 NFL Draft.
Years Played: 1978-1985
Position Played: Running Back
Played For: Houston Oilers (1978-84) New Orleans Saints (1984-85)
Alma Mater: University of Texas
Uniform Number: No. 20 (University of Texas) No. 34 (Houston Oilers) No. 35 (New Orleans Saints)
Nickname: The Tyler Rose
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: 1991
Other Members of the Class of 2004: John Hannah, Stan Jones, Tex Schramm, and Jan Stenerud
• First player to earn All-Southwest Conference honors four years
• Consensus All-America (1977)
• Heisman Trophy Winner (1977)
• Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1990)
Best NFL Season:
Earl Campbell's best season came in 1980 when he set a career high of 1,934 yards rushing including four 200-yard rushing games.
Career NFL Stats:
Campbell rushed for 9,407 yards and 74 touchdowns, and he also gained 806 yards on 121 receptions.
• Named NFL Rookie of the Year (1978)
• Named the NFL's Most Valuable Player Twice (1978-79)
• Played in Five Pro Bowls (1978-83)
• Named All-Pro Three Times (1978-80)
• Led NFL in Rushing Three Times (1978-80)
• Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1991)