Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell is often mentioned as one of the primary examples of how the game of football can take such a physical toll on the men who play it that the sport simply isn’t worth the risks. Campbell, however, does not see it that way.
Campbell is on the cover of the current Sports Illustrated, and the “Where Are They Know?” profile of him reveals that Campbell actually thinks he’s doing just fine at the age of 57. Campbell has had back and knee problems, arthritis and diabetes, and has struggled with addictions to alcohol and painkillers, but he says that when someone recently commended him for never complaining, his answer was, “What would I complain about?”
When a story made the rounds five years ago that Campbell took six minutes to walk 40 yards, many of his fans began to pity him. Campbell says he’s doing better now, and he never wanted any pity. He also never regretted the physical way he played football, saying he wants to be remembered as a man who would fight for every yard, and he doesn’t have anything against the game of football.
“I don’t hold nothing against nobody,” Campbell said. “I played the way I wanted to play and ran the way I wanted to run. When you want to be the best at something, nobody is going to tell you how to do it. When it was third-and-four, I didn’t just want five yards. I wanted seven.”
Fighting for all those yards for all those years may have taken something out of Earl Campbell. But he doesn’t see it that way.