This little pun of a comic comes to you from brit James Campbell!

Instead of writing my words, I’ll leave you with his.

I’m a British Fan of the Denver Broncos, and I’d just finished studying abroad in Idaho. I’m 24 years old and got into the NFL thanks to a mixture of Tebowmania which had made the newspapers, and staying up in the small hours of the night watching Victor Cruz smoke the Cowboys in a play-in game on New Year’s Day 2012.
In May 2015, I was confined to a Chicago hotel room, and not able to move from my bed for hree days, presumably due to some dodgy Philly cheesesteak (Boo, Philly!) and since there was nothing else to watch or do, I think I watched a few documentaries, as you do. One of them was “Earl Campbell: A Football Life.” Those 1978 and 1979 teams were something else. And the Oilers looked sharp in their White helmets, Columbia blue jerseys, white pants and scarlet red trim. They had Head Coach Bum Phillips, quarterback Dan Pastorini, defensive end Elvin Bethea, return specialist, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, safety Vernon Perry, receiver Mike Renfro and…linebacker-turned-executive Ted Thompson. They had a well-coached offensive line, but the Tyler Rose was something else.
The #1 overall pick in 1978 after a massive trade up with the fledgling Buccaneers. Campbell’s sheer power, size and speed made him a player to be feared, even as a rookie. There’s a brilliant highlight reel on Youtube and this documentary really opened my eyes. Earl considered it unmanly to be tackled by just one player, and kept pad level low and his feet churning. He bowled over defenders, trucked but he had surprising burst to the outside. The run against the Rams…with the hit on fast approaching Isaiah Robinson, from a basically a standing start, into a long run stopped only after his jersey was ripped off and after five or six tackle attempts. The collision on Jack Tatum of the Raiders on the goal-line…I could go on, but Earl Campbell carried that team. His style of physical running cost him his career after eight seasons, and quality of life in retirement. Earl Campbell: the reluctant running back, UT legend, face of the Oilers franchise, College and Pro Football Hall of Famer, continues to fight a courageous battle against Spinal Stenosis. The risk/reward was different back then.
Stepping off that soapbox, this is my Mount Rushmore. This isn’t necessarily about the best, but who I think changed the game. I’m not old enough, but thanks to the Internet, documentaries and NFL films for the highlights. Obviously, there’s Earl Campbell from the 1970s; Jim Brown, from the 1950s and 1960s, the original gamechanger at RB, best ever pure runner, three-time MVP, NFL Champion, every meaningful RB record on retirement, averaged 100 yards per game, Pro Bowler every single season he played. Barry Sanders from the 1990s, ahead of Emmitt Smith. Yes, Smith has the rings and the stats, was durable, and generally got what was blocked, but Sanders was more fun to watch. Sanders was more boom-or-bust, but made more yardage for himself. He’d leave defenders seeing ghosts with his speed and elusiveness, after juking them out of their cleats. Then, the true G.O.A.T of the NFL…Walter Payton. Sorry Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice…Sweetness was the best NFL player ever. He didn’t have the size or the raw athleticism, but nobody ran with more heart. He could get to the outside, win up the middle, pass block, catch out of the backfield, throw TDs. The stiff arm, the stutter step and the leap…he is the standard that every running back gets judged off.
I truly believe this is a golden age for running backs. There’s a lot to be said for a running back by committee approach, but it’s a good time to be a franchise three-down back. Todd Gurley reset the market. Le’veon Bell and David Johnson are offensive weapons awaiting their mega deal, and they deserve it. There’s talented feature backs in Ezekiel Elliot, Melvin Gordon, Jay Ajayi and Jordan Howard, who should all get $10M+ APY when the time comes for their deals. There’s the vastly unappreciated Mark Ingram, who is still just 28 years old. Then there’s Derrick Henry, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara. And the best running back prospect of them all, Saquon Barkley. It’s a passing league but come playoff time, teams have to have to run the ball effectively to win. A franchise running back is increasingly asked to do a lot more these days. The 2018 running back class was once-in-a-generation good, and the rookies should be able to make a meaningful impact. 2019 is shaping up to be a solid year too.

While Stateside, I was able to go to my first NFL game, in November 2014 and it was that game at Mile High against the Dolphins. CJ Anderson put on a masterclass in freezing temperatures, icing the game; Peyton Manning threw four TDs; Demaryius Thomas had three TDs receiving; TJ Ward got a pick, and the Broncos scored 22 straight to come back to win 39-36. They was nosebleed seats but the atmosphere was incredible, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve seen the Bills play against the Jags at Wembley in 2015, and the Giants play the Rams at Twickenham stadium in 2016. Landon Collins’ interception was something else. I’m thankful for the international series games, but only in moderation. It’s difficult for teams to lose their home games and their support for a game held across the pond, with a carnival atmosphere of the different fanbases. It is nice to see the game grow, with a thriving university, adult and women’s league.
By the way, Denver and Atlanta are going to the Super Bowl. Atlanta have a strong nucleus, with a blend of youth and experience. They have dominant lines, good skill position play, fast linebackers and a top-notch secondary. They have a determined coach, an attacking defensive scheme and they’re going to be hard to beat in the NFC, although it’s always wide open. Yes, I may be a homer here, but the Broncos have the best punter in the league to go with the #3 defense from last year. Elway had a masterful draft, and got early starters in Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Josey Jewell and Daesean Hamilton. Phillip Lindsay is impressing as a undrafted player, and I’m hopeful he can make the roster. Shane Ray is healthy and looking dominant in Training Camp so far. So far, touch wood, Case Keenum is as good as advertised, showing touch and accuracy, and allowing only the receivers to make plays on the football. Savvy acquisitions like Su’a Cravens and Jared Veldheer are looking solid, and encouragingly, the offense is light years ahead of what it has been over the past few seasons. Then again, pre-season dreams are often crushed into sadness come the regular season. Oh well.”
Thanks for helping me out, James!

Enjoy the first real week of preseason this Sunday!