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Earl Campbell with his mother, Ann. (Photo: Earl Campbell/Instagram).

The O’Toole Chronicles: Earl Campbell’s Mom

By Kevin O'Toole, September 20 2022 12:01 am

Earl Campbell’s mother told him that it takes a lot of energy to be nasty to someone and almost no effort to be nice. Earl had one smart mom.

Who is Earl Campbell?

Earl Campbell was truly one of the best power running backs in college and the NFL. He played four years at the University of Texas and won the Heisman Trophy in 1977. Earl was drafted number one by the then-Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans for all you kids out there), and he played 9 years in the NFL. Earl averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had 74 touchdowns. Much like his experience in college, while in the NFL, Earl was feared as one of the most ruthless and punishing power running backs in the game.

Those of us who were lucky enough to watch him play during his prime witnessed a driven and very powerful running back who would literally bowl over a defender in his way. Earl’s game was not finesse, he was all strength and muscle, and he left behind many bruised and battered opponents. Given his style of play, and the psychological and physical strength it required, I find it interesting that Earl would focus on his mother’s words of wisdom.

Who is Earl Campbell’s mom?

As much as Earl was remarkable and accomplished, he couldn’t hold a candle to his mom. Ann Campbell was widowed early in her marriage and had to raise 11 children on her own. She was left a rose farm to work and did all she could to keep a roof over her family’s head. By all accounts the home was barely a structure. The floors had holes and the roof had leaks where rain would pour through during a storm. The kids made do with hand-me-down clothes, many provided by the Salvation Army. Caring neighbors gave them food.

When Earl signed his first contract, he had a new house built on that property and took care of his mother.

Given the hand that Ann Campbell was dealt, some wouldn’t blame her for being bitter and angry. Yet she passed along this pearl of wisdom:

We all look for motivating factors in life to help us accomplish our goals. Sometimes, it’s the chip on our shoulder of insecurity, the boss who fired us that we need to prove wrong, the political opponent who can never get enough oxygen to make their efforts legitimate. Whatever it is, we all pull something as a motivating factor.

Earl’s mom was right, nastiness doesn’t have to be a byproduct of that motivation.

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