|Earl Campbell: Heisman winner turned Texas tutor|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 04 October 2007 10:46|
Not quite sure what to expect, Charles approached the older man whose Heisman Trophy sits on display at the field house and whose likeness stands watch over Royal-Memorial Stadium in the form of a 9-foot statue.
When you're a tailback at Texas and Earl Campbell wants a word with you, you listen.
``Of course I did. He's EARL CAMPBELL, man,'' Charles said as his No. 19 Longhorns (4-1, 0-1 Big 12) prepared to face No. 10 Oklahoma (4-1, 0-1) Saturday in Dallas.
Campbell, the NFL Hall of Famer who won the Heisman Trophy 30 years ago, has become a mentor to Charles. The advice ranges from what it takes to be the best player on the field to the best way to hold the ball to avoid fumbles.
They see each other a couple of times a week and Campbell will throw in stories about playing in the days of tear-away jerseys and Astroturf fields and life after football.
``I sit there quiet like it's a classroom and try to learn,'' Charles said. ``I shut up and listen to every word he says. He's Earl Campbell. He gives me motivation to go out there and work hard, don't let nobody take it away from you, don't let anybody tell you you're not the man.''
Campbell was a human battering ram as a college and NFL player with a bruising running style fueled by tree-trunk legs that powered over defenders. And his body is paying the price for it today.
Although Campbell denies his physical style of play is the cause, his body is a shell of what it once was. At 52, he struggles to walk and often uses a wheelchair or walker. His large hands appear wracked with arthritis.
Still, he has stories and advice on how to play the game. And because he uses the Texas weight room for physical rehabilitation after recent surgery, he gets to spend a lot of time near Charles and the Texas players.
``At first, I was ashamed, being an old man, in there with all those young players,'' Campbell said. ``But the strength guys told me that the players were so happy seeing me work to get better that I got over my shame. Jamaal and those guys have been really motivating for me.''
This is supposed to be a breakout season for Charles, a heralded high school recruit out of Port Arthur who has struggled to live up to the promise of his freshman season when the Longhorns won the national title and he rushed for 878 yards and 11 touchdowns, including a game-breaking 80-yarder against Oklahoma.
He's averaging 109 yards through five games this year and has seven touchdowns.
Campbell said it was Cleve Bryant, an assistant in the football program, who asked him over the summer to talk to Charles.
``So Jamaal came by,'' Campbell said. ``I talked to him about my career, and some of the things that I had gone through. Then he said, 'Mr. Campbell, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I wasn't even born when you were playing.' We both laughed about it, and that's when we became friends.''
After Charles dropped two fumbles in a 35-32 win at Central Florida, he said Campbell gave him some good advice about holding onto the ball.
Charles wears a size 11 shoe, about the same size as a football and about the same distance from his wrist to his elbow. Campbell told him how he used to practice cradling the ball by cradling his shoe when he walked around the house or watched television.
Charles says it helped. He hasn't fumbled since his first carry against Rice two weeks ago and has scored four touchdowns in the last two games.
As runners, Campbell and Charles are quite different in style. Where Campbell was a bruiser, Charles has the been the speedy slasher, ducking into holes and slipping through tackles.
When Texas coaches wanted him to be a tougher runner between the tackles, Charles hit the weights over the summer to get stronger. He also put on weight to get up to 205 pounds and has shown he's tougher to tackle.
``He can be a good as he wants to be,'' Campbell said. ``If he keeps improving and keeps learning, he's got a chance to become our next Heisman Trophy winner.''
Charles says he studies film of former Longhorns backs like Campbell and Ricky Williams, another powerful tailback who won the Heisman in 1998. He doesn't worry that football will take the same toll on his body as it did Campbell.
``Looking at how he used to be, he was like a beast,'' Charles said, referring to Campbell. ``I wish I was that big.''