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. Asher Price‘s exhilarating blend of biography and history, Earl Campbell: Yards After Contact (University of Texas Press, 2019) 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.