A fascinating biography of the legendary Texas football star who earned the Heisman Trophy and an MVP award—while making wrenching sacrifices to achieve his record-setting greatness.
Earl Campbell was a force in American football, winning a state championship in high school, rushing his way to a Heisman trophy for the University of Texas, and earning MVP as he took the Houston Oilers to the brink of the Super Bowl. An exhilarating blend of biography and history, Earl Campbell chronicles the challenges and sacrifices one supremely gifted athlete faced in his journey to the Hall of Fame. The story begins in Tyler, Texas, and features his indomitable mother, a crusading judge, and a newly integrated high school, then moves to Austin, home of the University of Texas (infamously, the last all-white national champion in college football), where legendary coach Darrell Royal stakes his legacy on recruiting Campbell. Later, in booming, Luv-Ya-Blue Houston, Campbell reaches his peak with beloved coach Bum Phillips, who celebrates his star runner’s bruising style even as it takes its toll on Campbell’s body.
Drawing on new interviews and research, Asher Price reveals how a naturally reticent kid from the country who never sought the spotlight struggled with complex issues of race and health. In an age when concussion revelations and player protest against racial injustice rock the NFL, Campbell’s life is a timely story of hard-earned success—and heart-wrenching sacrifice.
- Part I: Tyler
- Part II: Austin
- Part III: Houston
“Thoughtful…A well-crafted life of a man who, though now largely out of the spotlight, enjoyed a storied career.”
“For anyone who wants to understand what made one of the game's greatest running backs tick, [Earl Campbell is] well worth your time.”
Mike Freeman, Bleacher Report
“[A] comprehensive biography…Will appeal to readers wishing to learn more about Campbell and this era of both college and professional sports as well as Texas history.”
“Earl Campbell’s saga as an African American sports celebrity in the largely unreconstructed State of Texas contains elements of triumph and tragedy, and Asher Price’s extraordinary new biography captures it all with riveting prose, gifted storytelling, and a carefully crafted analysis of race, region, and football mania. Not since the appearance of H. G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights have we seen such an important and insightful book on the world of Texas football. ”
Raymond Arsenault, author of Arthur Ashe: A Life and Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice
“Whenever I watched Earl Campbell play on television, his impossibly powerful runs seemed almost folkloric--John Henry wielding a stiff-arm. This splendid biography conveys not only Campbell’s superhuman feats, but—even more impressively—his underlying humanity. In Asher Price’s formidable hands, Campbell becomes a prism for examining our nation’s struggle for racial equality and the punishments inflicted by our nation’s most popular sport. Price writes with verve and style and has succeeded in doing nothing less than establishing a new standard for sports biography.”
Justin Driver, author of The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind
“Earl Campbell is a towering figure in the history of sports. Finally, there is a book worthy of the man.”
Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation
“Asher Price profiles not only the greatest running back ever but the football-infused Texas culture that produced, rewarded, and exploited him. From Earl Campbell's birth in segregated Tyler to his retirement in a wealthy Austin suburb, Price captures every telling detail in his painstakingly reported and beautifully crafted book. Anyone interested in football, and its future, needs to read Earl Campbell: Yards after Contactto understand the sport's problems and promise.”
Chris Tomlinson, author of Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Tomlinson Name—One White, One Black and columnist for the Houston Chronicle
Listen to Asher Price read from the Introduction:
Listen to Asher Price read an excerpt about recruting Earl Campbell to the University of Texas at Austin: