Quick Takes

          I was listening to ESPN Game Day last week. Jason Smith was interviewing golf expert Jeff Riordan. They were discussing Phil Mickelson and the PGA Championship. Smith asked his guest what Mickelson has to shoot to win the tourney. His immediate response was the classic, “Tiger Woods, right in the back!” Fortunately for Mickelson, it didn’t come to that.

          The above strategy, however, is an option the Eagles might want to consider with Terrell Owens. If the Eagles decide that's not a viable solution (it's viable; it's just not legal), then this is. Get rid of him, but don’t cut him yet. First they should try to get whatever they can get in the way of personnel or draft picks, preferably the former as they need receivers now. Owens is a cancer, and the NFL knows it, but the Eagles should take whatever the best deal is they can make for him, and get on with trying to salvage 2005 before it’s too late. If they can’t move him, then they should cut him, and very soon. (I suspect Owens’ contract is not fully guaranteed, but my advice to Philadelphia management on the subject might be different if I knew the full terms of that contract.)  

          When we think of centerfielders who starred defensively, the obvious who comes to mind is Willie Mays. Willie was sensational, but for my money, the greatest defensive centerfielder I’ve ever seen is still playing. He is an absolute acrobat in the field when it comes to either making diving catches to prevent base hits or making leaping catches over the fence to bring home run balls back. There’s never been a better defensive centerfielder than Jim Edmonds of the St. Louis Cardinals.  

Story of the Week


          The guy was a load! He played at 5-11 and 232 and, ala Jim Brown, he had great balance and agility for a big man. You could always tell when the Earl Campbell Express was coming. He was a freight train on the ground. Earl Campbell was raw power, and this heavily-muscled bowling ball terrorized NFL defenders from 1978 to 1985.

          To state that Campbell was not your typical running back was more than a mild understatement. His frame featured tree-trunk thighs that measured a whopping 36 inches in diameter, only two inches less than his waist. He ran with a forward lean, providing a low center of gravity along with a small margin of error for tacklers. He absolutely refused to give up on any run, taking great pride in dishing out punishment when gaining every possible yard.

          Earl was the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in 1978. He literally exploded onto the NFL scene after two All-American seasons and a Heisman Trophy-winning senior year at the University of Texas. Playing for his home-state Houston Oilers, the kid from Tyler (the Tyler Rose) rumbled for a NFL-leading 1,450 yards in a spectacular rookie season in which he was named the NFL Rookie of the Year, and followed that with league-leading seasons of 1,697 and 1,934.

          He was and still is considered the best power running back since Jim Brown. He topped the 100-yard barrier 11 times in 1979, and posted no fewer than four 200-yard performances on the ground in his 1980 showcase. Through his first six seasons as the centerpiece of the Houston offense, he averaged 1,383 yards.

          The pride that prodded Campbell to stretch out every run over eight seasons for the Oilers and the New Orleans Saints was no doubt responsible for his relatively short career. All the pounding he absorbed, the bone-jarring blows from the gang-tackling he endured, prompted a premature drop-off in performance. When he retired after the 1985 season, he had run up 9,407 yards on the ground along with 74 touchdowns, and had been named All-Pro seven times.

          Stated Coach Bum Phillips about Earl in 1983, “Earl hits you; you don’t hit him.” He was absolutely right. As I write this article, I think back to all of the great running backs I’ve seen. For my taste in that category, the two most exciting backs I’ve ever seen run the football are Jim Brown and Earl Campbell. Size, brute force, great agility, speed and sheer determination on every play are a package of characteristics none ever possessed like the two of them.

          Earl Campbell is enshrined in the Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

Last Week’s Trivia

          The New Jersey Devils of the NHL were the Colorado Rockies. But before moving to Denver, that franchise started as the expansion Kansas City Scouts.

Trivia Question of the Week

          As long as we’re on the subject of the NHL, who was the first player to score more than 100 points in a season? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.