Keep your shoulders pointed forward

May 10, 2023

By Jeff Becraft


Just yesterday, I re-watched some film clips of Earl Campbell.  If you don’t know who Earl Campbell is, he was a running back in the NFL for the then Houston Oilers and is now in the Hall of Fame.

Jim Brown said of him, “Best running backs… you put Jim Brown first and you put Earl Campbell second.  The rest of them you can put them in line any way you want to.”  Obviously, there will be people who will debate Jim Brown’s comments but no matter how you slice it, Earl Campbell was a force to be reckoned with.

In referring to footage of highlights, another NFL player commented, “They would show him running the ball, then they would back it up in reverse and show all the people he had run over.”

On every single play, Earl Campbell got hit.  Except on those rare plays when he was not touched… like when he would get around the end… but even then, everyone on the defense was chasing him.  There was nothing easy about it.

If you are on the field in the game of life, you are going to get hit.  And the hits can even come from multiple angles and come in groups and even one after another.

On one play at the goal line, Campbell was handed the ball and Jack Tatum, a tenacious player with the Oakland Raiders, came flying into the backfield and drilled him right in the chin with his helmet.  (In today’s day and time, Tatum would probably have been ejected from the game.)  Campbell reeled back… and then stumbled forward into the end zone.

Oftentimes when noticing an outstanding running back, commentators will use the expression: “he keeps his shoulders pointed upfield.”  When Campbell would get hit, he would keep his shoulders pointed upfield, his legs would keep moving, and he moved forward.

So if you get hit in life… and all of us will get hit… keep your shoulders pointed forward.

If the hit is particularly fierce and you stumble, stumble forward.

And if you get tackled and drug to the ground, get back up and get ready for the next play.  We have no idea what the next play will hold.


Jeff Becraft is the Interim Director of Our Place of Hope and the Director Emeritus for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at  [email protected].