Earl Campbell and Jamaal Charles: Sharing a bond
When Earl Campbell visits Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletics Center, now 30 years following his 1977 Heisman Trophy winning season, he on occasion gets a glimpse into his past.
What he sees is not exactly himself, but a likeness, an image of the hard work he put in and the method he used to go about putting it in to reach the level of success he did.
That likeness comes in the form of current Texas RB Jamaal Charles.
"That's my man," Campbell said of Charles. "He is a great young man. He's quiet, he works very hard and keeps his mouth shut, and he wants to do the right thing. He's a lot like I was. He reminds me of me."
For Charles, who has studied film of Campbell and remembers first studying his running style on the Internet, he could not receive a higher compliment.
"When I first met Earl, I was amazed to meet him, because everyone looks up to him, and he's a big Heisman Trophy winner from Texas," Charles said. "I always wanted to get to meet him and talk to him. Talking to him just made me feel so honored. It was good having a conversation like that."
Just as Campbell could see himself in Charles, the same was true in reverse, which was a formula for a fast friendship.
"He gave me advice like, you've got to work hard to get where you are and make your dreams come true, but he was always saying how he wanted to make his momma happy, what you've got to do for momma," Charles described. "He told me he would think, `I have to run this many yards to build momma a house. I have to not fumble the ball, because I want to build momma a house.' It was all about her, and I feel the same way about my momma, too."
The connection was almost instant at their first meeting. Charles, in his humble and respectful manner was nervous at first, but with his usual honesty, inadvertently broke the ice.
"Cleve Bryant came to me and told me he had a kid he wanted me to talk to, so Jamaal came by," Campbell recalled. "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."
As the conversation continued, Charles was happy to listen to every piece of advice and keeps the thoughts as constant motivation.
"I have to work hard, use my arms, stay strong around people, get big, and just be elusive out there," Charles said. "Mr. Campbell said, `You have to be you. Nobody can be you. Take over the game. To be the best, you have to do the things that got you here.'"
Charles looks at that 1977 season now has a first-hand view of the preparation it took on Campbell's. He now hopes to apply it to himself.
"He can be a good as he wants to be," Campbell followed of Charles. "If he keeps improving and keeps learning, he's got a chance to become our next Heisman Trophy winner."