For the foreseeable future our pro sports-watching has been reduced to recordings of old games – or, worse, computer-generated simulations or pros playing video games. Football is the sole sport moving forward like it’s business as usual when it’s anything but. But let’s be honest: Only Tom Landry’s fedora knows if there will be an on-time kickoff.
So, then, let us take this pause to celebrate a man who left an indelible mark on college football: the great Earl Campbell.
The former University of Texas star was a runner like few had ever seen. Campbell’s speed was impressive, but his raw power was absurd; to this day, Texas-bred running backs from Eric Dickerson to Adrian Peterson get compared to Campbell when their greatness is assessed. From his days as the National High School Player of the Year in Tyler, Texas, through his career at UT and eventually to his storied, Hall of Fame pro career spent mostly with the Houston Oilers, Campbell smashed though would-be tacklers, seemingly without regard for their physical well-being.
Arguably the greatest college player in the history of the football-mad state, the man they called The Tyler Rose turned in one of the most impressive seasons in the history of the game as a senior in 1977, racking up 1,855 total yards – his 1,744 rushing yards were the most by any player in the country – and 19 touchdowns (18 rushing) while leading the Longhorns to an undefeated regular season. The Horns eventually fell to Joe Montana and Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl, but Campbell capped off his spectacular season by winning the Heisman Trophy.
Arguably the most important jersey from Campbell’s college career is going to cross the auction block in Heritage Auctions’ Sports Catalog Auction May 7-9. It’s Campbell’s jersey from his Heisman-winning senior season – a tear-away jersey, no less, the kind favored by many teams during the 1970s. It’s only appropriate. The garment bears the scars of battle – a peeling number, small frays and holes scattered about where opponents tried to bring down Campbell by grabbing a fistful of cloth.
All it takes to acquire this college football treasure is a winning bid. Just be glad you don’t have to tackle him to get it.