Gridiron Glory: Earl Campbell award to be presented tonight

Published on Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:36 - Written by By Phil Hicks

After almost three years in the planning, the inaugural Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award will be presented tonight during a star-studded banquet at Willow Brook Country Club.

The award honors not only legendary running back Earl Campbell, but the top Division I college football players in the nation with Texas ties.

The finalists are:

 Jace Amaro, Texas Tech, tight end, junior, San Antonio (MacArthur High School)

 Mike Evans, Texas A&M, wide receiver, sophomore, Galveston (Ball HS)

 James Franklin, Missouri, quarterback, senior, Corinth (Lake Dallas HS)

 Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, quarterback, sophomore, Kerrville (Tivy HS)

 Bryce Petty, Baylor, quarterback, junior, Midlothian (Midlothian HS).

The Tyler Rose himself, the 1977 Heisman Trophy winner from The University of Texas and Pro Football Hall of Famer, will be on hand to present the winner.

The banquet, which is sold out, is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Sportscaster Ron Franklin will be the master of ceremonies.

Amaro and Petty are scheduled to be in attendance, said Cindy Smoak, vice president of SPORTyler. She said Evans, Franklin and Manziel will not be attending, but will have representatives at WBCC.

Tyler community leaders are excited about the first award and the chance to honor hometown hero Campbell, a 1974 John Tyler High School graduate.

“SPORTyler has been working on the award for approximately two and half years, and we are thrilled to be able to present the inaugural award on Friday,” said Henry Bell, CEO of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and SPORTyler. “This will be the first of many years to come and another tradition that gives Tyler national exposure.”

Added Mrs. Smoak, “We are so excited to be honoring Earl Campbell (tonight) with the announcement of the first ever Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award. This has been several years in the making, and it is unbelievable we are at this point seeing it come full circle. We have an incredible list of finalists, all deserving of the honor, and I know Earl is excited to be able to make the announcement of the first ever recipient.”

The Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, announced in 2012 by the Tyler Chamber and SPORTyler, recognizes the top offensive player in Division I football who also exhibits the enduring characteristics that define Earl Campbell: integrity, performance, teamwork, sportsmanship, drive, community, and tenacity; specifically tenacity to persist and determination to overcome adversity and injury in pursuit of reaching goals.

Along with the traits of Campbell, a three-time National Football League Most Valuable Player, the nominees must meet one or more of the following criteria: born in Texas and/or graduated from a Texas High School and/or played at a Texas-based junior college or four year Division I Texas college.

The finalists were selected from an initial watch list of 35 announced in August. The list was whittled to 16 on Dec. 2 and to the final five on Dec. 9.

Voting was by a panel of 35 journalists and football officials from around the nation. Also, fans voted on for their favorite.

The sponsors of the event are American State Bank, Citizen’s 1st Bank, Kitchens Unique, Tyler Morning Telegraph, Harold Beaird, R.W. Fair Foundation, Clements Fluids Management, Patterson Commercial Property Group, Chesley and Ted W. Walters, Texas Spine and Joint, Austin Bank, Billy Hibbs, Prothro Wilhelmi & Co. and Dr. Paul and Kay Latta.

Highlights of the five players’ seasons include:

Amaro led the Big 12 with 98 receptions and finished second in the conference with 1,240 receiving yards during the regular season. He also had seven TD receptions. In Texas Tech’s Holiday Bowl 37-23 victory over Arizona State on Dec. 30 in San Diego, he caught eight passes for 112 yards.

Evans had 65 receptions for 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns, including his memorable 279-yard eruption against Alabama. In the Aggies’ 52-48 win over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 31, he had four receptions for 72 yards.

James Franklin’s numbers are a little less than the other QBs as he missed a month with a shoulder injury, but he led Missouri to the Southeastern Conference East Division crown in the Tigers’ second year in the league. He had 2,255 passing yards, 19 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He added 474 rushing yards and four touchdowns. In the Tigers’ Cotton Bowl 41-31 victory over Oklahoma State on Jan. 3 in Arlington, Franklin hit on 15 of 40 for 174 yards.

He is competing in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Saturday in Carson, Calif.

Manziel, who was born in Tyler, is the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, the first freshman to win the coveted award. He was also a finalist for the 2013 award.

Manziel hit on 270 of 391 passing attempts for 3,732 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions during the regular season. He has added 686 yards and eight TDs on 133 rushing attempts in leading the Aggies a 9-4 record and the win over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He sparked the comeback for the Aggies, hitting on 30 of 38 passing attempts for 382 yards and four touchdowns. Manziel also rushed for 73 yards and a TD on 11 carries as he rallied A&M from a 38-17 halftime deficit for the 52-48 win.

Petty threw for 3,844 yards and 38 touchdowns against just two interceptions and has rushed for 11 touchdowns in guiding the Bears to an 11-1 record, Big 12 title and a Fiesta Bowl berth. In the Bears’ 52-42 Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida, Petty connected on 30 of 47 passing attempts for 356 yards and two touchdowns.

Amaro, Evans and Manziel have declared for the NFL Draft.