As a collegiate football player at the University of Texas at Austin, he won the Heisman Trophy in 1977 and led the nation in rushing with 1,744 yards. In 1977, he became the first recipient of the Davey O'Brien Memorial Trophy which was awarded to the most outstanding player in the now-defunct Southwest Conference. He was also a consensus All-America choice in 1977. Additionally, he was a First-team All-America selection by the AFCA in 1975. He was selected as the Southwest Conference running back of the year in each of his college seasons and finished with 4,444 career rushing yards.
Campbell has an affinity for the number 4…Four times he was All Southwest running back, the first time in that conference’s history one man earned such an honor…His college career in rushing is 4,444 yards…and in his 4th year of college he captured both the Heisman Trophy and consensus All-American. Earl’s top game was in 1977, where he gained 222 yards rushing against Texas A&M. His incredible talent for rushing brought him eighteen games in which he gained 100 yards or more in his college career.
Texas star Earl Campbell won in every section except, oddly enough, the Southwest, his home base. Oklahoma State's Terry Miller took that region. Grambling became the first school outside Division I to place a player in the top 10 as quarterback Doug Williams finished fourth. The voting regions were expanded to six for the 1977 balloting.