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At Age 31, Earl Campbell Retires; Move Takes the Saints by Surprise

August 19, 1986

Running back Earl Campbell of the New Orleans Saints retired Monday after nine seasons in pro football. He ended his career with 9,407 yards rushing.

"I'm a man; I'm not a little boy," Campbell said during a news conference at the Saints' training camp in Hammond, La. "I believe this is the best thing--not only for myself, but for the Saints."

Saints' Coach Jim Mora said: "He's a cinch for the Hall of Fame."

Campbell, 31, spent six seasons with the Houston Oilers after winning the Heisman Trophy in 1977. The first player selected in the 1978 NFL draft, he won three NFL rushing titles with Houston. His best season was 1980, when he rushed for 1,934 yards, the third-best single-season mark in league history. He was traded to New Orleans in 1984 for a first-round pick.

However, Campbell's performance in two exhibition games wasn't impressive. He had 78 yards in 25 carries. Saturday night, against the New England Patriots, he played only in the first half, carrying 12 times for 35 yards.

Nevertheless, Mora said Campbell's announcement "was a complete surprise to me. He was still our No. 1 tailback."

Campbell said he wanted to spend more time with his family and made the decision to quit Sunday night.

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