Earl Campbell

NFL Legend

Earl Campbell
Earl Campbell. Tony Tomsic/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Earl Campbell is a Hall-of-Fame running back who played for the Houston Oilers and the New Orleans Saints. Campbell won the Heisman Trophy in 1977.

Dates: March 29, 1955 - present

Also Known As: The Tyler Rose

Growing Up

Earl Christian Campbell was born on March 29, 1955, in Tyler, Texas. Campbell was the sixth of eleven children. His father passed away when he was only eleven years old, and he began playing football shortly after in the fifth grade. He began as a kicker, then a linebacker, but he eventually transitioned to running back because of his speed. He attended John Tyler High School in Texas and led the football team to the Texas 4A State Championship in 1973.

Campbell remained in Texas for his collegiate career and attended the University of Texas at Austin. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1977 after leading the nation in rushing with 1,744 yards. He amassed 4,443 total yards while at the University of Texas at Austin, and solidified himself as a can’t-miss NFL prospect.

Professional Career

The Houston Oilers selected Campbell with the first overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, and the Heisman Trophy-winner found immediate success. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his first season and posted an impressive total of 1,450 rushing yards, which was good enough to earn him Rookie of the Year honors. He was also named Offensive Player of the Year, 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. Campbell led 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.

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 in a game against the Chicago Bears.

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.


Earl 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.

Despite a career that was shortened by the pounding he took, Earl Campbell still managed to finish with 9,407 career rushing yards and 74 touchdowns, 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. He received football's highest honor in 1991 when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

NFL Career Totals

Earl Campbell rushed for 9,407 yards and 74 touchdowns, and he also gained 806 yards on 121 receptions.

College Highlights

• 2x Consensus All-American (1975, 1977)
• Heisman Trophy Winner (1977)
• Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1990)

NFL Highlights

• NFL Rookie of the Year (1978)
• 5x Pro Bowl Selection (1978-1981, 1983)
• 3x NFL First-Team All Pro Selection (1978-1980)
• NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (1978)
• NFL MVP (1979)
• Led NFL in Rushing Three Times (1978-80)
• Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1991)