Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mecca for RBs

Have I mentioned I started my newspaper career in Kilgore, Longview and east Texas , which is a virtual mecca for football and running backs? Earl Campbell, Billy Sims, David Overstreet played in consecutive years --1973, 1974 and 1975 -- and the list goes on and on. Yep, they all got their starts right here in east Texas . I’ve been fortunate to meet those three, along with numerous others.
Earl (pictured above) starred at John Tyler High School and made his debut against Longview in 1971 as a linebacker, not as a running back, before going on to the University of Texas and winning the Heisman Trophy. He, of course, followed that by being the No.1 draft choice in the NFL and went on to an all-pro career in Houston and finally retired as a member of the New Orleans Saints. I remember seeing film of him against Longview when he was a linebacker.
He was inserted late into the game when he was a sophomore and made a crucial unassisted tackle of Mike Mock, who later went on the New York Jets as a linebacker himself. I met Campbell for the first time when he was with the Longhorns playing against OU. Sims was a standout at Hooks, where he rushed for over 100 yards in 39 straight games, before he went to Oklahoma , where he also won a Heisman and later the Detroit Lions. I got to meet and interview him at the Texas high school all-star game before he ever went to play for the Sooners.
Overstreet played at Big Sandy with current Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, and I watched them play for three years together. Overstreet and I became friends and, in fact, he called me to help him get together some of his high school teammates for a reunion the same year he died in a tragic car accident when he was playing for the Miami Dolphins. Overstreet rushed for an amazing 3,030 yards and scored 52 touchdowns, more than the majority of the teams in east Texas that season. His feats were unbelievable to me. I saw his high school team score a then national high school record 824 points (it was later broken by a team from California in the early ’90s) and gave up only 15. I also got to cover Daingerfield High School en route to a state championship in 1983 when it allowed only eight points in a 16-game season. I got a first-hand look at Adrian Peterson when his high school team, Palestine , played in the first round of the state playoffs against Hallsville.
East Texas has always had top-notch running backs, regardless of classification. Now, the small town of Cayuga has a 6-2, 210-pound RB by the name of Traylon Shead, who rushed for over 3,500 yards and scored 52 times last season as a junior. It’s a Class A school, but just recently he verbally committed to Texas , even though he is still a junior. Like Overstreet, it’s been proven that a small-school back can make it big, too. So, the tradition continues.


At March 3, 2009 at 8:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I'm trying to remember. What was your first year at Kilgore? - Jim Patterson

At March 4, 2009 at 9:42 AM , Blogger John Inman said...

Yep, it was. Two days after I left Northeastern I went to work at KN-H. Looong time ago.


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