Guest post: Earl Campbell and Derrick Rose

D-Rose has a little Earl Campbell in him. Maybe a little too much.

D-Rose has a little Earl Campbell in him. Maybe a little too much.

There are more than a few observers — myself included — who believe that Earl Campbell was the most powerful and dominant fullback to play in the NFL during the past 40 years. Having won the Heisman Trophy in 1977 while playing for Texas, he was drafted number one by the Houston Oilers in 1978. He was named both Rookie of the Year and MVP of the league that year. He led the league in rushing in each of his first three seasons, a feat (i.e., three consecutive titles) that only Jim Brown had previously accomplished.

Campbell was fantastically strong, and, especially early in his career, he ran over and through defensive players with disdain. As impressive as his displays of strength and power were — and they were very impressive — those of us watching him at the time wondered just how long his body could take such tremendous punishment. The answer was that he was able to play a total of eight seasons.

But much more revealing than that statistic was that after his third season he never again led the league in rushing, nor did he ever approach his 4.86 average yards per carry that he posted during those three years. Campbell was exceptionally brilliant early on, but simple physics and his reckless running style prevented him from maintaining that level of play beyond his third season.

As physical as NBA Basketball can be, it obviously isn’t comparable to NFL football in terms of the pounding taken by players. At the same time, however, I can’t help wondering whether there might be a worrisome connection between “The Tyler Rose” (Campbell’s nickname) and D-Rose.

Derrick Rose is an exceptional athlete, and may well be the strongest point guard ever to drive to the basket in the NBA. It’s thrilling to watch him dominate smaller players while finishing around the basket, or use his dazzling array of running one-handers and bank shots to score when the lane is clogged. But last night’s game in Orlando was a frightening reminder that reckless drives to the basket can be dangerous, as, for the second time this season, Rose decided to challenge Dwight Howard, and, also for the second time, ended up going down hard, and injuring himself in the process.

I don’t expect, nor do I hope that Rose will react to this incident by suddenly becoming conservative, or (worse yet) gun-shy. Driving aggressively to the basket will always be a crucial part of his repertoire. But if he isn’t smart enough to start becoming a bit more selective, then the Bulls’ coaches have a responsibility to push him in that direction.

Rose obviously has the potential to be a star in the NBA for many years to come, and even though the analogy isn’t perfect, perhaps someone should tell him about a football player from Tyler, Texas who played long before he was born. A player whose star shined so brightly, but for all too brief a period.

About the author:
Tony C. grew up in Evanston, and cut his teeth on the exciting, early ’70’s Walker-Love-Sloan-Van Lier Bulls. As a pick-up player, he admits to having stuck too long with low-top shoes (Puma Baskets, for the detail oriented), but did belatedly make the switch when the sprained ankles became tedious. Tony’s professional life revolves mainly around buying, selling and managing Thoroughbred racehorses. While he now resides outside of Chicago, he remains an interested, enthusiastic, and at times critical Bulls fan.

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16 Responses to Guest post: Earl Campbell and Derrick Rose

  1. cliniclysick March 12, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    I was thinking the same thing, Rose needs to get smarter or he’s become just another wasted Bulls’ draft pick. And I think we can all agree we’ve had enough of those for a while. You gotta stay healthy to help the team.

  2. Ryan March 12, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    Very interesting! I agree to an extent. I think it is very subjective. Players like Grant Hill, TJ Ford (time pending), Bill Walton, Charles Barkley, and Bernard King have all had many/extensive injuries and have managed above average careers – and fairly long too. Gritty, tough players that tended to take a beating(except Ford).
    I would also bring up Wade’s commercials from a year or so – “Get knocked down 7 times, Get up 8 times,” something like that. Wade takes a beating and has had great success. I think medical procedures and therapy procedures have evolved for players to get back faster.
    I tried to think and look up players that fit this mold. Some other names like Jonathan Bender, Penny Hardaway, Danny Manning (Clippers) came up.
    Fun stuff.

    bullsfandom March 12, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    People say the same thing about Wade. He even had a commercial designed around it (“Get knocked down 8 times, get up 9”). Wade also gets fouled a-LOT more than Rose (Wade has had a season with 800 FT attempts, and 2 others 750+. Rose has just 500 so far in is career). Wade has many more miles than Rose, and has missed 65 games over the last 3 years yet he is who many want us to pay max money to next year. Just saying.

    Tony C. March 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    “[Wade] has missed 65 games over the last 3 years”

    Exactly my point. Do you think he would have been plagued with so many injuries had he not been so reckless?

    Also, Wade is an anomaly. Just because he has survived and maintained a high value doesn’t in any way guarantee that the same would happen to Rose were he to take the same path.

    bobbysimmons March 12, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    I’ve noticed that Rose should be more conservative, but then again he probably wears more body armor than anyone in the league. The knees are what eventually limits most athletes, the constant jumping and landing and shifting puts a lot of strain not only on the ligaments, but also the cartilage at knee joint. Wearing down that cartilage happens over the years, as we see with KG. As cartilage wears down, the knees become more easily inflamed, chronic inflammation leads to scarring and fibrosis of the cartilage and less mobility, which all leads to a less athletic baskeball player (I describe all that because I’m a medical student interested in Orthopedics 😉

    Anyways the reason I have less concern for Rose, and I wish more athletes did this, is that he is always wrapping up his knees and padding them. Though it may not look like much, when he lands some of the force of impact is likely to diffuse into his knee padding and not directly into his knee joint. Though there isn’t much evidence that all this padding will make a difference 5-10 years down the road, D Rose is generally pretty good at protecting his body, except of course when guys like Howard body him mercilessly, which I’d just call dirty.

    your friendly BullsBlogger March 12, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    It’s a bit disconcerting that he’s had a few of these contact injuries on drives, yet he is pretty awful at getting to the line (considering his usage and talent). Hopefully this is an anomaly, since he has to start drawing MORE contact, not less. That or get out to the 3-point line.

    Boppinbob March 13, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    While Howard is praised for being a physical player I am getting the impression that he is more of a dirty player. It seemed to me that he was trying to intimidate/hurt Rose with intentional fouls. I would hope that the coaching staff would discuss these incidents with the league officials.

    It has been nice to see JJ getting enough PT to get into the flow of the game. I like the way he has performed and hope that his PT continues at close to this level for the rest of the season.

    Tony C. March 13, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    As an aside, for those who haven’t seen Earl Campbell run, here’s a good highlight reel:

    Derek F. March 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    There was a show on a couple of years ago focusing on the physical toll on former NFL players and one of those featured was Earl Campbell.

    Like you, I grew up marveling at this unstoppable force destroying any defensive player that got in his way. DBs refused to tackle him.

    I was sad to see him barely able to walk. And he’s not the only one. prior to his passing, Johnny Unitas’s “Golden Arm” was nothing but a useless lump of flesh to the point that he had to learn to write with his left hand. The list of others is too long to go into.

    That being said, the physical toll on a NBA player is small compared to NFL players. Roses game is what it is, and there’s a inherent risk to penetrators like him. We should be thankful he didn’t play in the 80s-90s when the norm was to destroy anyone who dared wonder into the paint. Remember Bill Laimbeer clothlining Michael Jordan? No such thing as a flagrant foul back then.

    The only solutions are either he shoots more jumpers; which at this point is not his strenght, or take judo to learn how to safely fall.

    Tony C. March 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm #

    “…or take judo to learn how to safely fall.”

    The funny thing is, Derek, that your suggestion is basically right on. Martial arts do teach practitioners how to fall fluidly, and Rose would be well-advised to find a good teacher and incorporate those principles.


    GERRY March 13, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    That’s not a bad idea at all!

    Isn’t James Johnson a martial arts guy? Maybe he’s got some tricks for Rose to learn.

    Max March 14, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    That is a bit far fetched. Rose can withstand falling on the ground every now and then. Sometimes I think you guys just talk to talk. You always look for the bad and ignore that your watching a kid who is ferocious and is only getting better. So what if he takes a few bumps and bruises along the way.

    Derek F. March 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

    What happens when one of those “bumps and bruises” is season or heaven forbid career ending?

    And it’s not as ridiculous as you think. Is it ridiculous that many pro athletes take dance lessons to improve their footwork? Is ridiculous that many pro athletes practice Pilates to improve flexability?

    reggie March 15, 2010 at 5:07 am #

    stop it please stop it this is not a game of touch but its not football howards foul to rose was dirty he was sending a message to him not to dunk on hm while he is in the game or drive to the hole either way it was a dirty play by howard who, I now consider a dirty player if you do not mean to hurt people then you do not have to say it less that was yr intent on doing it either way rose has to be rose it is what it is and he is who he is you cannot take his game away from him what he needs is some players who have his back like he does theres he is willing to lay it all out on the line as should the players he plays with does they all make a ton of money to lay this game therefore there should be a ton of effort in playing this game and every game they are played to play for if players get hurt fans do not get refunds for tickets purchased which is a shame so why should players be able to not play the game and the way you came to see them play what so they can be safe and not effective in the game no way I say play on play out Derrick fk the haters and the howards dunk on them all you got game no lie with that statement so be you represent chi town and da bulls next time kick howard in his balls or something he deserves it once was enough now twice fk that hope you do not let him do that to you a third time here in chi when you next meet semnd him a message all of you bulls players man up play hard and smart Peace

  15. Ryan March 15, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    I think the martial arts idea would be something to consider. I imagine this will be something he will work on in the off season – and 3-point shooting.

    Top Sports Star August 4, 2010 at 5:55 am #

    These joints work together to give support to the whole body weight. At the same time, these joints are responsible for sustaining the movement of our body.

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