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Earl Campbell

Discussion in 'Houston Texans' started by BobFinn*, Jan 29, 2004.

  1. BobFinn*

    BobFinn* Contributing Member

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    Campbell plays through pain

    HOUSTON — His left hand, so gnarled with rheumatoid arthritis that his Hall of Fame ring won't fit, slowly reaches for a Styrofoam cup, which is then followed by a tiny burst of dirt-brown spittle. Soul music softly plays and the Texas football legend, wearing bluesy sunglasses, a blue jump suit and sneakers without socks, swivels in his leather captain's chair on the 40-foot Coachman bus. Earl Campbell is alone, with a pinch between cheek and gum. He sometimes prefers his solitude, though he doesn't dare slow down.

    [​IMG]
    Former Houston Oiler Earl Campbell sits with his 1977 Heisman Trophy
    By Donna Carson for USA TODAY

    His speech, while not slurred, sounds odd, and he looks drowsy. Behind his shades are eyelids so heavy that they appear to have miniature anvils weighing them down. Six months ago, doctors performed 11 hours of surgery to correct a chronic back problem that leaves him needing a cane or a wheelchair and feeling a little embarrassed. He has difficulty sleeping because of excruciating pain. Doctors say he should soon resume a normal life.

    Campbell takes the prescription drug Xanax daily for anxiety attacks. About 10 years ago, he thought he was having a heart attack, but doctors diagnosed him with panic disorder. Crowds don't bother him, he says. On this day he wanders through a mall food court, sampling the fried catfish on the lunch platter of an adoring woman, agreeably signing every last autograph request, enjoying shouts of "Hook 'em, 'Horns!" harkening to his Texas days.

    "No, what gets me sometimes is when I'm by myself, and I don't have to be by myself," he says. "I just want to be by myself and, when I am, it gets me."

    Two aides, C.J. Bankston and Archie Jones, drive Campbell around on business. He trusts only them and his two sons, Christian and Tyler, to help him move around, which is why he is upset that the NFL won't permit his offspring to accompany him on the field for Sunday's coin toss.

    "They want some (league) guy to walk me out, and that's not going to happen. Because if my boys can't do it, then I'm out of the coin flip," he says.

    With that, he cautiously steps from the bus, then begins to take baby steps along a downtown sidewalk. People stop and stare. He knows what they're thinking.

    "Look at what football did to Earl Campbell."

    But the former Houston Oilers bruiser insists: "It wasn't from football. I was born with a very small spine. It's the good Lord's blessing that I never was paralyzed from all those licks I took or that I gave. My whole lumbar is all messed up. Sometimes I take medication for (the pain). Sometimes I just gut it out and try to forget about it."

    No one ever will forget No. 34. I don't know about you, but when I think Texas, I instantly think football. And when I think football, I think of only one person.

    Sorry, Emmitt. Sorry, Tony.

    Campbell made his body do things that no man should ask his body to do, and the mortgage may have come due in his retirement years. At 48, Campbell has a bum right knee and bad arches, but he did accomplish what he was born to do — run over men like they were pylons. Despite his strength and power, he never lifted weights. He doesn't regret a moment of his NFL career, though he thinks all those (left) stiff arms he punished defenders with may have contributed to his arthritis in his left hand.

    Campbell hasn't knocked down obstacles in life as easily as he did in football — including failed businesses and health issues — but he remains humble and grateful.

    "We all suffer a bit (physically), but it was fun, man. It was worth it," says Campbell, whose trademark name is on his meat products business. "If I didn't have athletic ability, I would've hated to see what would've happened to me. I wouldn't have been able to buy my mom a house, have that ranch in Austin or be semi-financially stable. You can't look back and say, 'I would've done this or that differently.' Hell, no. You've got to be honest with yourself. God gave me a talent; I used it."

    In high school he wanted to be the next Dick Butkus. But at Texas he won the Heisman, and he graduated.

    For 6½ years in Houston in the '70s and '80s, Campbell provided bone-chilling thrills in the NFL with those punishing 34-inch, oak-sturdy thighs perched atop those wonderfully bowed legs. The team's popular "Luv Ya Blue" campaign ended without a Super Bowl, but Campbell's career included multiple MVP awards and rushing titles and eventual enshrinement in Canton. The state bestowed upon him the "Official State Hero of Texas" award, and he joined Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston and Davy Crockett with that rarely bestowed honor.

    After his days in Houston, Campbell was traded to New Orleans, where he lasted 1½ seasons. He woke up one night to go to the bathroom in training camp and couldn't walk because his aching feet were so badly swollen.

    He was 31 and done.

    "I found out I couldn't jump in that 'four-hole' like I did when I came out of college," he says. "I told Rickey Jackson, 'I'm quitting football tomorrow.' He said, 'Sure you are.' That's how I did it. I made three phone calls: to my mother, (former Longhorns coach) Darrell Royal and (Saints coach) Bum Phillips."

    When he got on the plane to go back to Houston, Campbell told a startled Southwest flight attendant what he wanted to drink — a six-pack of Budweiser. "I had to convince her," he says. "I gave her the $6 and never looked to my right or my left. I just kept looking straight ahead because I was making plans for the future. That's the way I retired. I left three cans on the plane and never looked back. That's why, despite my (health), I never stop moving. I guess if I stop, I won't start up again.

    "I just keep on going."

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/saraceno/2004-01-29-saraceno_x.htm
     
  2. giddyup

    giddyup Contributing Member

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    Man, that is sad. Does anybody know anything about his twin brothers who came to UT after him? What are they up to?
     
  3. JamesC

    JamesC Member

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    :confused: Must be a typo. Good article though.
     
  4. PhiSlammaJamma

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    Like the man said. We all got to deal with something. For Earl, that what he's gotta deal with. But he isn't less of a man because of it. He's just the same as the rest of us.

    I'm not that familiar with anxiety attacks, but I've seen some pretty normal people get them. My guess is that anybody can get these at any time. And that is a scary thought. Cause I'm wondering when and if I'll get one someday. and then sitting there and wondering why I got it. Gotta be frustrating.
     
  5. Behad

    Behad Contributing Member

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    No it wasn't. Phillips coached the Saints after Bud Adam's New Year's Eve massacre.
     
  6. Rocket Fan

    Rocket Fan Member

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    the nfl needs to let his sons walk him onto the field.. or I for one am not going to be happy....

    I met him probably 8 yrs or so ago, and he was nothing but a class act...

    He even gave a kid some money to go buy a football, who wanted to have something to get signed.. if I remember correctly.. classy move
     
  7. JamesC

    JamesC Member

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    My bad, I didnt know that. I only knew Bum Phillips coached the Oilers during the "Luv Ya Blue" days
     
  8. rrj_gamz

    rrj_gamz Contributing Member

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    I feel for the guy...He's is nothing but class and was one of the best RB's to come out of Texas and play the NFL...

    BTW, I love the EC sausage links...Close second is HEB Jalapeno Sausage...
     
  9. Buck Turgidson

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    THE best, with Dickerson a close second.
     
  10. Deji McGever

    Deji McGever יליד טקסני

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    If Earl isn't out there for the coin toss, I'm turning off the TV and I will never watch an NFL game again. :mad:
     
  11. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

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    What a story. Keep going, Earl, keep on truckin'!
     
  12. FrontRowJoe

    FrontRowJoe Member

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    Not long ago, I had a chance to sit with Earl at my Dad's sports bar and watch an Oilers game. We spent the whole time just drinking beer and watching football. He'd talk about his playing days, and point out little things Gary Brown (the Oilers running back at the time) was doing well (or not-so-well). The whole time, he was just Earl being Earl: just a football fan from Tyler, TX. He may have slowed down a bit, but you've got to respect a man who is that devoted to the game he loves.

    And his legendary 34" thighs are still pretty damn big.
     
  13. Rockets2K

    Rockets2K Clutch Crew

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    I get sad when I hear about how Earl is doing these days....but then I think about all the good times and all the times I screamed my guts out for him...and he normally always came thru.

    Then I feel better.

    It's good that he has no regrets...he did what he wanted to do...and he is a legend for it.

    There will never be another like him.

    btw....the NFL sucks for not accomodating him for the coin flip. Bastards.:mad:
     
  14. Hippieloser

    Hippieloser Contributing Member

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    Never lifted weights, wow.:eek:

    The man makes a damn good sausage, too.
     
  15. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

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    The question is simple, and only Earl Campbell, himself, can answer:

    "Was it worth it" ?

    Earl, man, I hope so, because you are paying a dear price.
     
  16. derrock

    derrock Contributing Member

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    "We all suffer a bit (physically), but it was fun, man. It was worth it," says Campbell, whose trademark name is on his meat products business. "If I didn't have athletic ability, I would've hated to see what would've happened to me. I wouldn't have been able to buy my mom a house, have that ranch in Austin or be semi-financially stable. You can't look back and say, 'I would've done this or that differently.' Hell, no. You've got to be honest with yourself. God gave me a talent; I used it."
     

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