One of football’s all-time greats, Earl Campbell, calls Tyler home.
The Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Most Valuable Player’s legacy continues to grow Wednesday with the official launch of the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award during SPORTyler’s 2013 East Texas Kickoff Luncheon at Harvey Convention Center.
The event, which begins at 11:30 a.m., will be a gathering of high school, junior college and college football coaches, players and superintendents from around East Texas.
The highlight of the day is the announcement of the inaugural watch list for the first Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, named for the John Tyler High School and University of Texas All-American, Cindy Smoak, vice president of SPORTyler, said.
Also, one senior player from each of the invited 40 schools will receive a $250 scholarship from the event’s sponsors — Azalea Orthopedics and Texas Spine and Joint Hospital.
Brad Sham, voice of the Dallas Cowboys, will be the guest speaker with local sports personality Bryan Houston serving as emcee. The luncheon will be catered by Spring Creek Barbecue.
The Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award will be presented annually to the nation’s outstanding Division I college offensive player who meets one or more of the following criteria: 1. Born in Texas; 2. Graduated from a Texas high school; or 3. Played at a Texas-based junior college or four-year college.
The player also must exhibit the enduring characteristics that define Earl Campbell, including integrity, performance, teamwork, sportsmanship, community and tenacity —specifically tenacity to persist, drive and determination to overcome adversity and injury in pursuit of reaching goals, organizers of the award said.
Smoak said the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award is presented by SPORTyler, Inc., in conjunction with the city of Tyler, the Tyler Convention & Visitors Bureau and Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. Located in downtown Tyler, the non-profit SPORTyler helps to encourage student-athletes to succeed on and off the field.
The preseason award watch list is selected from nominations submitted by the sports information directors of each Division I school. Each week during the regular season, an Earl Campbell Tyler Rose National Player of the Week will be selected leading up to the finalists announcement in December.
The selection committee will be comprised of Texas-based journalists and college football dignitaries and, in subsequent years, each of the all-time winners. This year, the selection committee will narrow the field to up to 16 semifinalists on Nov. 18 and up to four finalists Dec. 2. The recipient of the award will be announced in January 2014.
The 2013 Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award recipient and finalists will be recognized at the gala announcement banquet to be held Jan. 10, 2014, in Tyler. The winner will receive a unique trophy sculpted by noted artist Ken Bjorge. The winner’s name will be permanently added to the base of the original trophy on display in Tyler.
“We are fortunate to have a celebrity of such impeccable virtues which defines this award,” said Henry Bell, chief operating officer for the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. “How many well-known sports role models worked hard to finish their degree, are still married to their high school sweetheart (Reuna), have two fine successful children (Tyler, Christian) and still support the community where they came?”
Community leaders started working on a way to remember Campbell a few years ago. The framework of the award rounded into shape after discussions between Campbell and his sons, along with Bell, councilmen Donald Sanders and Martin Heines, Smoak and Dr. Bill Lockhart, of Austin.
The bruising back won his fair share of awards during his playing days, including college’s highest honor, the Heisman Trophy, his senior season at Texas in 1977. Campbell rushed for 1,744 yards and 19 TDs during the memorable year.
The Houston Oilers drafted Campbell, widely considered to be one of the best running backs in history, with the first overall pick of the 1978 NFL draft. Campbell owns the distinction of being one of the few athletes in sports history named Most Valuable Player his first three professional seasons. He finished his pro career with 9,407 yards and 74 TDs.
Campbell, who was raised in the Swan community in rural north Tyler, led John Tyler to a state championship in 1973. Campbell rushed for 2,036 yards and 28 TDs during the perfect 15-0 season.