Rich Brooks, Mike Bellotti, and Chip Kelly are all coaches responsible for great seasons and the current state of the Oregon football team. As fans, we attribute success and failure to the head coaches, but it is never just the head coaches that are responsible for the success of a team.
Too often we give the head coaches — and sometimes the coordinators – all the credit for the success of the players. Don’t get me wrong — the contributions of the head coaches and coordinators are vital to a successful team, but position coaches are also much of the reason for the success of the team. They are responsible for developing the players and getting the most out of their potential.
No other position coach has meant more to the success of Oregon than Gary Campbell. To many people he is simply the man who wears the extravagant suits before the game. It is true that his suits are stunning and are one of the highlights of the march to victory before every home game — but he is so much more than just a man in a suit.
Campbell has been coaching since 1976 and has been part of the Oregon family since 1983 as running back coach. Before his career as a coach, he was a fullback for UCLA during the 1969-73 seasons. He went on to become a graduate assistant at UCLA from 1976-78, and from there he went on to have short stints coaching Southern, Howard, and Pacific. He finally made his way to Oregon in 1983 and has been here ever since.
What makes Campbell special is that not only has he been with Oregon through all the recent highs of the program, but he has also been here through all the rough times in the late 1980s. Through all those highs and lows, Campbell remains the longest continuously-tenured position coach currently in the FBS.
This longevity with one program extends further than just a simple coach-player relationship. Campbell truly cares for each and every one of his players. He makes his players not only outstanding football players but also outstanding human beings.
During his time here at Oregon some players have made mistakes, but acting as a father figure, Campbell has taught these players to learn from and become better by learning from their transgressions. Among those mistakes, none was more public than the fiasco that occurred with Legarrette Blount after a loss to Boise State in 2009.
The initial game in the year and career of Kelly as head coach, Oregon was just manhandled by Boise State. And to make matters worse, Blount decided to sucker punch Boise’s Byron Hout following an exchange of words.
Following the altercation, Blount was suspended for the year and his NFL future was in jeopardy. However, with Campbell’s guidance Blount was able to not only return to the team later that year but also grow as a person. Blount visited underprivileged teens, became a better student, and tackled his anger issues as a result of this mistake. Blount was given a second chance and instead of wasting the opportunity that he was given, he learned from the past and even achieved his dream of reaching the NFL.
Campbell has not been a coach for 32 years at Oregon because he is a nice guy with nice suits but because he produces results. Over the last 30+ seasons at Oregon he has had 19 seasons with 1,000-yard rushers from 15 different players and has had a 1,000-yard rusher for the past eight seasons.
Many of the exploits of these rushers can be found on the Mighty Oregon DVD — from the power of Reuben Droughns to the elusiveness of Lamichael James and DeAnthony Thomas and more. With the likes of Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner in the backfield now, it does not seem that the consistency at running back is going to change anytime soon.
Although it may seem as though Campbell will be wearing his suits and cranking out 1,000-yard rushers forever, eventually he will retire. Before Campbell does decide to retire from the game, we must appreciate everything that he has done for the program and meant to this community and give him the respect that he has so rightfully earned.
Featured photo by Kevin Cline
Article inspiration from the Mighty Oregon DVD
You can find this amazing collection of stories from Oregon’s past at http://www.mightyoregondvd.com/