'Earl Campbell' debuts as new Texas Legend
ARLINGTON, Texas — There's a new, but familiar, Texas Legend running around Rangers Ballpark in Arlington these days.
Earl Campbell — rather, a costumed character that looks like Earl in his Houston Oilers playing days — has joined the cast of Texas Legends that race around the infield in the middle of the sixth inning.
For his inaugural run, "Earl Campbell" won a match race with "Nolan Ryan" during Saturday's game against the Houston Astros.
The fake Earl paused in front of the real Nolan Ryan, sitting in his usual spot next to the Rangers' dugout, and struck a Heisman pose. Campbell won the 1977 Heisman Trophy as a star running back at the University of Texas.
Former president George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush were seated next to Ryan, now the Rangers' team president.
The pause for the Heisman pose cost Campbell the race, although the real Ryan got a big laugh out of the whole thing. As it turns out, the idea of Ryan beating Campbell in a footrace is the root of the new character's origin.
"We were talking about adding a guy and Nolan said he always wanted to beat Earl Campbell in a race," said Chuck Morgan, the Rangers' executive VP in charge of ballpark entertainment and promotions. "I think he and Earl were good friends. It planted a seed.
"We've kicked around adding George W. Bush and some other people, but when Nolan said he wanted to run against Earl, we said, 'We've got to get Earl Campbell.'"
Earl Campbell is now the fifth Texas Legend. The original trio of Sam Houston, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie debuted last season and began alternating games with the traditional Dot Race during sixth innings.
The Nolan Ryan character joined the other huge-headed heroes in the middle of last season and was met with huge approval by the fans.
Morgan said he wanted to add the Campbell character last season, but first the club had to get clearances from the NFL, which took some time.
Getting Campbell's permission to use his likeness was a much simpler process.
"Nolan called him and he said, "Yeah, go ahead and do it," said Morgan.
Then came the process of ordering the costume, which cost $10,000 and is made by the same New York company that makes the characters for the Presidents Race at Washington Nationals games.
Members of the Rangers' promotions staff wear the costumes for the races. It looks like fun, but it's no easy task running with an oversized head.
"They're pretty heavy," Morgan said. "It's quite a contraption to put on."
Another part of the process is getting the character's likeness right, which also isn't as easy as it sounds at first.
"It took us forever to get Nolan right," Morgan said. "Because the one you don't want to mess up on is Nolan, or you're going to hear about it for the rest of your life."
The Campbell costume was finished just in time to make its debut, appropriately enough, during the weekend Rangers-Astros intrastate series.
Morgan said there's been no decision on who will be the next Texas Legend. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach is among the names being tossed around.
For now, Morgan and the Rangers want to have a little fun with the newest Legend.
"Next race I'll have Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie blocking, and Earl Campbell will win," Morgan chuckled.
Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire