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Running Angry

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A look back at Earl Campbell, the greatest running back I ever saw.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Jets fans took a look at Chris Ivory in the Green and White in 2013 and fell in love with his running angry style of rushing.  Ivory never shied from contact and inflicted as much punishment as he took.  It was fun to watch and Ivory became a fan favorite.  As I watched Ivory play, I enjoyed the running angry style as much as the next guy, but I couldn't help but feel that Ivory is but a dim reflection of Earl Campbell, the original running angry prototype.  Jim Brown was just a bit before my time, but of the running backs I have clear memories of, Earl Campbell was the best there ever was.  He was Ivory, raised to the 3rd power, and with sprinter's speed.   Earl was a 5' 11", 232 pound dynamo, who ran with reckless abandon, and instilled fear in the heart of defenders.  But surprisingly for such a huge back, he also had superb speed, often pulling away from defensive backs in the open field, outstanding lateral agility and quickness, and preternatural balance and vision.  He was as close to perfection in a running back as I ever saw.

Unfortunately for Earl, his incredibly punishing style of play caught up with him rather quickly.  Campbell ran the ball more than 360 times per season for three consecutive seasons in 1979, 1980 and 1981, and after that he was never the same. He had only one more 1000 yard season in the NFL, and was finished by the age of 30.  The years of punishment also wreaked havoc on his body after his retirement, and left him nearly crippled by the age of 50.  On the field Earl dictated the terms of engagement and imposed his will, but off the field he ultimately paid the price.  For those of us lucky enough to have seen him play, the sight of him on the football field in his prime was a wonder to behold.  For the many GGN members too young to remember Earl, I bring you this highlight reel.  Watch, and be amazed.  This is the original, the real deal, the one who set the standard for all future running angry running backs.  This is Earl Campbell. This is controlled violence, fluidity of motion, sprinter's speed and field vision rolled into one nearly perfect running back package.  This is greatness.  This is Earl Campbell.  Enjoy.

*Note: for some unknown reason the video cuts off about 2/3 the way through and is nothing but static the rest of the way.