Earl Christian Campbell (born March 29, 1955) is an American former professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints. Known for his aggressive, punishing running style and ability to break tackles, Campbell gained recognition as one of the best power running backs in NFL history.
Campbell played college football for the Texas Longhorns, where he won the Heisman Trophy and earned unanimous All-America honors in his senior season, as well as numerous other accolades. He was drafted first overall by the Oilers in 1978 and had an immediate impact in the league, earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors. Earl Campbell was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in each of his first three seasons, during which he averaged nearly 1,700 rushing yards per season. He won the AP NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1979 after leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns.
With head coach Bum Phillips, Campbell’s emergence in Houston coincided with the Luv Ya Blue era, a period of sustained success in which the Oilers made three straight playoff appearances. Campbell became the centerpiece of Houston’s offense during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was traded to the Saints six games into the 1984 season, where he spent his final season and a half before retiring. Campbell was inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame (1990) and Pro Football Hall of Fame (1991). His jersey number is retired by the University of Texas and the Tennessee Titans.