10 best Texas football football NFL careers

Earl Campbell
Earl Campbell / George Gojkovich/GettyImages
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Earl Campbell
Earl Campbell / Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

player. 467. . Earl Campbell. Earl Campbell. Teams: Houston Oilers, New Orleans Saints. Earl Campbell. 1. . NFL: 1978-1985

There haven't been many running backs with the same powerful and punishing style as the legendary Earl Campbell. The Tyler, TX, native was a big part of the Longhorns being in the mix among the top teams for the national championship in 1977. He rushed for over 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns en route to winning the school's first Heisman Trophy during the 1977 season.

After four years of dominant running at Texas, Campbell was selected first overall by the Houston Oilers in the 1978 NFL Draft. The Oilers tapped Campbell to be the future face of their franchise.

Campbell was an immediate superstar, leading the league in rushing yards with a rookie record of 1,450 and 13 rushing touchdowns in 1978. He was named the AP Offensive Player of the Year and a First-Team AP All-Pro for his record-breaking 1978 rookie campaign.

Multiple publications also named him the NFL MVP during the 1978 campaign.

Campbell continued to shatter multiple NFL rushing records during the 1979 season. He set records for most games with 100+ rushing yards (11), consecutive 100-yard rushing games (seven), and rushing touchdowns (19) in 1979.

After registering nearly 1,700 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, Campbell was the unanimous NFL MVP and the AP Offensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row. Campbell was literally running over the rest of the league with two of the most impressive seasons the NFL had ever seen from a young running back.

Somehow, Campbell got even more productive during the 1980 campaign. He registered a career-high 1,934 rushing yards (second most by an NFL RB in a single season at the time) and 13 rushing touchdowns. Campbell led the NFL in rushing yards, total yards from scrimmage, rushing touchdowns, yards per game, and yards per carry in 1980.

He was fewer than 100 yards shy of breaking OJ Simpson's single-season rushing record in 1980. He won AP Offensive Player of the Year and was a First-Team AP All-Pro for the third year in a row just three seasons into his NFL career.

While Campbell was breaking records and leading the league in nearly every major rushing category early in his career, the Oilers were struggling to hold up their end of the bargain. The Oilers did make the postseason every year of Campbell's first three seasons in Houston.

But the Oilers regressed in the postseason each year, eventually seeing head coach Bum Phillips getting dismissed after a 20-point wildcard loss to the Raiders during the 1980 season.

Teams started to zone in on Campbell, knowing that slowing him down was the key to stopping the Oilers' offense. Campbell had a couple more Pro Bowl seasons in the early 1980s with the Oilers. But his days winning league-wide awards for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year were behind him by the mid-1980s.

Campbell would be traded to the New Orleans Saints during the 1984 season. By then, Campbell had taken an absolute beating due to his punishing running style. He was 29 years old and registered just over 1,000 yards in his final two seasons in the league in 1984 and 1985.

Campbell retired after a nine-year NFL career following the conclusion of the 1985 season.

It's rare that you see a player at any position in the NFL have as dominant of a stretch as Campbell did in the first three years of his pro career. He retired with nearly 10,000 career rushing yards and 74 rushing touchdowns.

Campbell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990. He is widely considered to be one of the best running backs in the history of college football. Campbell was also selected to the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.

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