August 22, 2016

Highlighted Year: Earl Campbell, 1981

Running Back, Houston Oilers

Age: 26
4th season in pro football & with Oilers
College: Texas
Height: 5’11” Weight: 237

Following an outstanding college career that was capped by rushing for 1744 yards and winning the Heisman Trophy, Campbell was the first overall pick by the Oilers in the 1978 NFL draft (Houston traded with Tampa Bay for the top choice). He moved directly into the starting lineup with outstanding results, leading the league in rushing (1450 yards), gaining consensus first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, as well as Rookie of the Year and MVP recognition (Pro Football Writers, NEA). Campbell followed up in 1979 by again topping the NFL in rushing (1697 yards) and touchdowns (19) to again receive consensus MVP, first-team All-Pro, and Pro Bowl honors. It was more of the same in ’80 as the power-running Campbell rushed for a career-high 1934 yards that included a record four 200-yard performances.

1981 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 361 [2]
Most attempts, game – 39 (for 186 yds.) vs. Seattle 10/11
Yards – 1376 [5, tied with Ottis Anderson, 1st in AFC]
Most yards, game – 186 yards (on 39 carries) vs. Seattle 10/11
Average gain – 3.8
TDs – 10 [7, tied with William Andrews, Ron Springs & Billy Jackson]
100-yard rushing games – 3

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 36
Most receptions, game – 6 (for 25 yds.) vs. Atlanta 11/29
Yards – 156
Most yards, game – 40 (on 4 catches) vs. Oakland 11/8
Average gain – 4.3
TDs – 0

TDs – 10 [12, tied with five others]
Points – 60

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-AFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Oilers went 7-9 to finish third in the AFC Central.

Campbell ran for 538 yards in the strike-shortened 1982 season, in which the team crashed to 1-8, and after one more 1000-yard rushing season in 1983 (1301 yards), his heavy workload and physically-punishing running style caused his performance to drop significantly. Campbell was traded to New Orleans during the ’84 season and he finished his career in 1985, rushing for 643 yards and a 4.1-yard average for the Saints. He retired with 9407 rushing yards, which ranked seventh in NFL history at the time, on 2187 carries and 81 touchdowns. Campbell received at least some MVP recognition and was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection three times and was named to four Pro Bowls. His #34 was retired by the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1991.


Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970