Earl Campbell: A Cautionary Tale

15 Feb

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at how football affects the brains of athletes. We have looked at how Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy have impacted the NFL in recent years. Head injuries are clearly the most prevalent issue in football, but bodily injuries are also a concern. Take a football player’s brain out of the equation and there are still a slew of health concerns that come about. We will take the focus off head injuries and focus on how football affects a player’s body. This week will be a discussion of Earl Campbell and how his life was affected by a career in the NFL.

Earl Campbell was one of the most punishing running backs in the history of the NFL. He was drafted number one overall by the Houston Oilers. He enjoyed an 8-year career in the NFL that ended with his bust in the Hall of Fame. Campbell was known for being one of the most punishing runners that football has ever seen. Defenders were truly scared to tackle him because they knew a vicious blow to the head was coming.

Campbell did not care about his body because it was how he made his living. He became one of the best running backs of all time by inflicting pain on his opponents. People glorified Campbell because he played hard and with a chip on his shoulder. They loved seeing this warrior every Sunday afternoon wreaking havoc on the football field. It is a stark contrast to see what Campbell looks like at age 57.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and it is a day full of love and commitment. Couples love to go out and have dinner and exchange Valentine’s gifts. Earl Campbell’s wife cannot enjoy these Valentine’s traditions because her husband is strapped to a wheel chair. Campbell can barely walk and cannot drive without being in severe pain. Looking at him is an example of how football has ravaged the body of a past NFL great.

Campbell has severe arthritis in both his knees and a debilitating back problem. Only after a drug addiction and months of physical and mental rehab has Campbell been able to use a walker. Before that he was confined to a wheel chair and still has to use it occasionally. This is what his wife and children have to deal with every single day.

Earl Campbell is exactly why every professional football player should be worried. He is a living example of what happens after a short 8 years in the NFL. After researching information about Campbell, I would love to ask him one question: Was it worth it? 8 years in a lifetime is an extremely miniscule amount of time. But the 8 years that Campbell played in the NFL has changed his life forever. He had 8 years of glory, honor, passion, dedication and victory. Now he has had 30 years of anger, depression, addictions, walkers and wheelchairs. This is a large price to pay for less than a decade of glory.           Image

Campbell was a ferocious runner for 8 years in the NFL. 

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