A night honoring the best college football players in the nation also turned into a night of powerful messages.

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins won the Seventh Annual Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award. Dobbins graduated from La Grange High in Texas, as the winner of the best offensive player in college football must have a Texas connection.

Campbell’s son, Tyler Campbell, told the athletes in attendance they are now part of greatness to be a finalist for the award and with that, they need to use their fame to help unite their communities. He said while many in the audience do not know each other, Earl Campbell unites Tyler.

After winning the award, Dobbins talked to the Tyler Morning Telegraph about the moment at Willow Brook Country Club.

“When I heard my name it was shocking, I never expect to win anything ... there are so many great players, this is such an honor,” said Dobbins.

Campbell then talked to Dobbins and his mother, Mya Grounds, for about 15 minutes. Dobbins was stunned.

“It was amazing talking to Earl. He told me some things I will keep with me inside of me for the rest of my lifetime. It was amazing to be in his presence. A great guy, I love him,” he said.

Campbell told the newspaper, “They all represent their universities well, they are here because they are exceptional players. Athletes are different. Everyone thinks they are selfish and cocky, but they are not. They are going to be friends because of this for the rest of their lives.”

As for being honored Monday at halftime of the NCAA College Football National Championship Game as the seventh-greatest college football players of all time, Campbell said, “When I was here in Tyler running around, God knew what he was doing because he gave me the talent. Winning awards feels good, but it’s a team effort.”

River Tomlinson won the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Scholarship. The Whitehouse graduate is a freshman at the University of Texas. Moments after walking in the door, he was asked to get in a group photo with the college football greats in attendance. The former track and field star was awestruck.

“You see the history of the Earl Campbell Award, you see the finalists, they wind up in the NFL. ... These are big guys, a big part of their team, they are a big deal,” said Tomlinson. “Being around these guys, these leaders, it’s really inspiring. I got here, so it helps me to keep pushing and doing what I am doing.”

Tomlinson’s size put him right with the football players. When asked how he measured up, he joked, “I’m not sure I can take a hit from any of them, but I did track so maybe I could run away!”

The emcee for the night was former voice of the Houston Oilers, Ron Franklin who also worked 24 years doing college football for ESPN.


John is a two-time national columnist of the year. He has earned top AP awards for news, videos and sports writing and won the Thomas J. Bulson Investigative Journalism award. He has appeared on CNBC's American Greed, FOX News and CNN.

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