Campbell returning for honor
It was a flat-out ruse. Louis Campbell agreed to an interview based on the context that he would provide real inside perspective on two of the great football minds of the last 60 years: Frank Broyles and Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Oh, that was covered in the interview, but the real purpose was to lure Campbell into our favorite hobby, talking fly tying and fly fishing.
Campbell is my best fishing buddy. I have others, but they all take a back seat to the now retired football coach and full-time fly fisherman.
We spent a little time tying flies one night this week after a 30-minute interview that will also serve as an opportunity to write that the Arkansas lettermen waited too long to name Campbell to the UA Sports Hall of Honor. He’ll be inducted the night before the TCU game in September.
Actually, Campbell was elected to the Hall of Honor three years ago, but he didn’t know it. That was put on hold because inductees have to attend and Campbell was going to be busy on the Friday night before the first UA home game as the football coach at Sheridan High School. He’ll move back to Fayetteville when his house is ready in August.
Campbell, 67, finally stepped away from coaching this winter, although there is a part-time job in the works. He’ll serve as executive director for the Arkansas Football Coaches Association. It’s an administrative
position he can do on the days that it’s not possible to fly fish.
I hate to tell the organization, but that isn’t a lot of days. I’ve been along when it’s been well below freezing, snowing or well over 100 degrees. Campbell is tough.
How tough? There was a day on the river when doctors finally released him after a total knee replacement. Well, they released him for some things, although wade fishing wasn’t mentioned. He fell down a steep path to the river, tumbling on rocks and tearing his waders.
I thought it best to abandon the fishing trip. Campbell’s arm and hand were bleeding. There was no telling what he’d done to the knee. Campbell did admit that there was plenty of pain, but there was no turning back. Fish were rising as we stared out into the White River.
So we fished and fished some more. We climbed up the bank about 10 hours later after catching well more than 200 fish.
“Yeah, it hurt,” he said. “But it hurt pretty good.”
The trip home that day — like always — was full of rich stories about coaching. Yes, I’ve heard stories about Broyles and Bryant. There were many about his days with Pat Jones, Danny Ford, Houston Nutt, John McKay and others.
It was during his time on McKay’s staff in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that the former Razorback decided it was time to head back to Fayetteville. Jack Crowe needed to retool his defense. Campbell, along with Joe Kines, accomplished that mission, but a loss to The Citadel bounced Crowe out of Division I coaching.
Campbell had bounced around at Alabama (with two stints), SMU, Oklahoma State and at Tampa before he realized that his family had no roots. Louis and wife, Ila Sue, both of Hamburg, were having a hard time teaching sons Shep and Steadman that they were really Arkansans. They fixed that.
UCLA defensive coordinator Bobby Field was Campbell’s teammate at Arkansas, two years ahead. Field got his start in coaching as a grad assistant under Bryant at Alabama. That’s also how Campbell got his start.
After first trying to talk Campbell out of a career in coaching, Broyles made the call to Bryant.
The comparison questions about Broyles and Bryant do seem appropriate. Both coached from the tower, although in different ways.
“Coach Bryant was mainly concerned with the offense,” Campbell said. “He let Coach Donahue handle the defense. It was the offense that he was always directly coaching.
“Coach Broyles was more involved with all phases. He would get involved with what ever he felt needed attention. He might be really involved in staff meetings with the defense, but the next morning he’d be in the offensive meetings. He went back and forth and had his hand on every single thing.”
My wife always smiles when I tell her there’s going to be a trip to the river with Campbell.
“You will come back a better person after a day with Louis,” she said. “Go and have fun.”
Yes, there are times when football talk surfaces. I’ve heard all of the stories about the three interceptions against Tennessee in the 1971 Liberty Bowl.
“It’s the thing that most people remember me for,” Campbell said. “To be honest, that was really the highlight. I don’t think anyone remembers my senior year, the next season. We had to beat Texas Tech in the last game for 6-5. That didn’t get you a bowl back then.”
There will be a topper in September at the induction ceremony.
“If you are a Razorback, I really don’t think anything you can do can beat going into the Hall of Honor,” Campbell said. “Dean Weber called me this spring to tell me. He did say that I’d been voted in three years ago, but they didn’t tell me until I could come.
“I understood, but what if I’d have died?”
The brown trout on the White River would have caught a real break.
“Yeah, I’m going to try to put a hurt on them,” Campbell said. “I’m going to try to find out how many days you can fish in a year.”