Earl Campbell's Record-Setting Season

Hall of Famer rushes for 200 yards four times in '80

Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell was one of the most powerful runners in National Football League history. Although the Houston Oilers’ and New Orleans Saints’ star rushed for more than 1,000 yards in five of his first six seasons, his finest season came in 1980. That year the former Heisman Trophy winner ran for an incredible 1,934 yards, the second best rushing performance in pro football history at the time, behind only O.J. Simpson's 2,003 yards in 1973.

The bruising back from Tyler, Texas, nicknamed the "Tyler Rose," rumbled for more than 200 yards in a record four games in 1980, including a personal best 206 yards against the Chicago Bears. His outstanding single-season performance earned him all-pro, Pro Bowl, and NFL Player of the Year honors. It was also the third consecutive season in which he led the league in rushing. Only the legendary Jim Brown had previously accomplished that feat. Still, the soft-spoken Campbell admitted after his record-breaking 1980 season, that he was "still learning." "I’ve learned how to give a guy a shoulder, how to give a leg and take it away and use a stiff arm now and then," he said modestly.

Described as a "one-man demolition team," Campbell was a punishing runner. His 36-inch thighs, 5-11, 244-pound frame, coupled with 4.6 speed, made him the most feared runner of his time. Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene claimed that Campbell could inflict more damage on a team than any other back he ever faced. Despite playing against stacked defenses and being gang-tackled nearly every time he carried the ball (a then-record 373 times in 1980), Campbell managed to average 5.2 yards per carry and scored 13 rushing touchdowns.

When asked to compare Billy Sims of Oklahoma, who won the Heisman Trophy the year after Campbell, Sooners’ coach Barry Switzer said, "Earl Campbell is the greatest player that ever suited up. He’s the greatest football player I’ve ever seen. Billy Sims is human. Campbell isn’t."

Earl Campbell
Game-by-Game Rushing, 1980
Date Opp.
Att.
Yds.
TD
9/7 at Pit
13
57
1
9/15 at Cle
18
106
0
9/21 Bal
7
11
1
9/28 at Cin
DNP
10/5 Sea
12
50
0
10/12 at KC
38
178
1
10/19 TB
33
203
0
10/26 Cin
27
202
2
11/2 at Den
36
157
2
11/10 NE
30
130
2
11/16 at Chi
31
206
0
11/23 at NYJ
15
60
0
11/30 Cle
27
109
1
12/4 Pit
21
81
0
12/14 at GB
36
181
2
12/21 Min
29
203
1
Total  
373
1,934
13

Campbell, Earl