Last Friday my high school coach, Don Campbell, was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. With 257 wins, 16 conference championships, and two state titles, his record speaks for itself. But perhaps his greatest impact was on the lives of the young men who played for Coach.
Over the course of a 39-year career Don Campbell coached at Corning, Sheridan and Wynne, where I played for him as a Yellowjacket from 1992 to 1994.
“People would say that Coach Don Campbell is a great high school football coach. I would agree, but more importantly, I would argue that he is a compassionate, caring person first,” commented Rep. Joe Jett, who played for coach growing up in Corning. “He has had such a positive impact on thousands of young men’s lives, that no one could ever put a price on how valuable he has been to those young men.”
Jett and I both fondly recall running Coach’s trademark play – 27 Trap. The play is so important to Coach that he has “27 TRAP” as his license plate on his pickup truck. It is a simple running play with a cross block that, if done correctly, is hard to stop.
Anyone who has played for Coach knows the reason it worked is that we ran the play in practice over and over until everyone could execute it in his sleep. I was a second string player in high school, so I usually ran the scout defense of our opponent during practice. That meant I learned firsthand how effective 27 Trap was from the defensive side of the ball.
Life lesson: Find what you are good at doing and perfect it. We did not waste time on a lot of fancy trick plays. Occasionally we would throw a pass or two, but even that was rare. Mainly we ran the ball and blocked hard. Every defense we played knew exactly what we planned to do, but few could stop us.
Once I overheard a conversation in the locker room with Coach and a younger assistant coach. The assistant had heard about some sort of new training videos that he wanted to order. Coach asked him, “Do you think those will help us win more football games?” The assistant admitted it likely would not. “Well, I don’t think we ought to worry about those then,” said Coach.
Life lesson: We can easily get distracted with all the many unimportant things in our lives. The key to success is remembering what is important and doing our best to perfect those simple things. And that is achieved through hard work and focusing on the fundamentals — whether in football or in life.
Jett recalled how Campbell impacted his life by never giving up on him as young man.
“The story that has followed me about Coach throughout my life is, between my freshman and sophomore year, I suffered a serious broken leg and ankle. It required several surgeries and a full leg cast for approximately a year. Although Coach Campbell knew my playing days were numbered after that, he never gave up on me as a person. As a 16 -year-old kid, he taught me through that experience that football is really about life and how we treat each other with respect and care for one another,” said Jett, who went on to go into the Air Force, become a farmer, and now represents his hometown in the state Legislature.
Coach made a difference in my life as well, even writing me letters while I was a freshman in college to encourage me. We keep up now primarily through Facebook. His success is in the lives of players who have grown up to become better men because of his leadership. He has been a hall of famer in our book for years. It is nice to see it become official.
• • •
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.