The greatest athlete in the history of the University of Texas turned out to be obvious — at least to those voting in The Longhorn Network's bracket challenge. Earl Campbell ran away with a final round victory over Vince Young for the title.
Before going head-to-head with Young in the last round, The Tyler Rose beat out another national championship winning UT quarterback (James Street) in the semifinals. Young toppled Heisman-winning running back Ricky Williams in the other semifinal, preventing an even more epic showdown that would have featured two of the greatest running backs in college football history.
Young was a great athlete who also happened to be on the right team at the right time, a luxury that Campbell didn’t have.
Campbell is clearly the correct choice for UT’s all-time greatest athlete.
Campbell never delivered a national championship like Young, but we can’t forget that VY had one hell of a supporting cast. Fans will forever visualize Young running in the winning touchdown against USC in the final seconds of the 2006 Rose Bowl, but he did it with a team that produced 24 players who entered the NFL as draft picks or free agents.
Young was a great athlete who also happened to be on the right team at the right time, a luxury that Campbell didn’t have. Campbell was the definition of an "impact player" when he first stepped on as a freshman in 1974, rushing for 928 yards in the regular season and breaking 1,000 yards in his sophomore year. But Campbell faced a rocky junior season, starting off with a hamstring injury in the summer of 1976 and playing on a Longhorn team that sputtered to a record of 5-5-1.
That was the year that Texas’ greatest coach, Darrell K. Royal, retired and Fred Akers took over. A major staff change following an injury would trip up many great athletes, but not Campbell: He had a senior season that put him in the record books and brought home UT’s first Heisman trophy. And even with that subpar junior season, Campbell is still the No. 3 all-time rushing leader at Texas.
And, unlike some of the Longhorns other legendary players (here's looking at you, Vince), Campbell became one of the NFL's most dominant players with the Houston Oilers. No matter what level he was playing on, he could make his opponents feel like Pee Wee players trying to stop a rampaging bull.
In fact, it seems that Bevo is the only defender who could stop Earl Campbell in his tracks.