Coaching Legend Returns To Classroom

FAYETTEVILLE — In perfect textbook fashion, Arkansas secondary coach Louis Campbell has fit like a book in a school library since returning to the teacher's lounge.

His classroom, however, is a 100-yard playground where recess isn't often part of the curriculum.

This 56-year-old coaching legend is back on his field of dreams after almost a decade of hibernation.

Campbell returned to the coaching fraternity last spring after serving as the director of football operations at his alma mater from 1998-2005.

Pity the fool who doesn't think it will work.

Why? Remember?

It's right there in black-and-white in the Arkansas media guide.

"Campbell's last assignment on the field came at the end of the 1999 regular season. When Keith Burns' departure from the UA coaching staff to take over as head coach at Tulsa left the Hogs without a defensive secondary coach for their Cotton Bowl meeting with Texas, Arkansas coach (Houston) Nutt asked Campbell to fill the void. In that game, he helped direct an Arkansas defensive unit that held the Longhorns to negative rushing yards (minus-27) for the first time in that program's history as the Razorbacks posted a 27-6 victory."

Clearly, it is this job which provides Campbell with a cathedral of comfort and it's evident in his Mona Lisa smile.

Campbell, who lettered as a defensive back for the Razorbacks from 1970-73, found himself able to tackle this assignment with the same aggressiveness as he did as a player.

Some remember, too, Campbell intercepted three passes in the Liberty Bowl against Tennessee on Dec. 20, 1971.

But he also had doubts at first about tackling this assignment.

"In the spring, I felt like a rookie going out there even though I've been to practice every day and I've been in the press box during the games," he said. "Still, it's different when you're out there coaching.

"There was a learning curve there in the spring. This fall, you know, I feel comfortable, feel like I still ... feel like I never got out of it. That makes it more enjoyable. It's like a player, you just go out there and play.

"This fall has been much better than the spring."

In a short time, Campbell has proven to be the father of uncut cool.

Just ask Razorbacks strong safety Randy Kelly.

"He's helping us focus and mature," Kelly said. "He's been a good leader for us. Me, personally, being a senior, I look up to him a lot. I respect him. I treat him like a father, I say, ‘Yes sir, no sir.' I just treat him like my father because I really respect him.

"I don't know a lot about his background, but I know he's a good man, from what I know.

"I respect him to the utmost."

So does Nutt.

"It's so good to have his experience," Nutt said. "He's a guy that's been through it, understands coverages, techniques. He's just doing a great job.

"Glad he's back with us."

Arkansas junior cornerback Chris Houston is part of "us" and also appreciates what Campbell has done since he returned to the field.

"Coach Campbell, he's a great coach," he said. "When he talks to us before practice, he brings energy. When we are practicing, he gets on us, cornerbacks, whoever. It doesn't matter who he's coaching. He's on board with everything.

"He knows what he's doing."

Without question, Campbell is old-school with a capital O, but doesn't judge his younger generation.

But ...

Have the players changed?

"Oh, I don't know," Campbell said. "I feel like they've changed in the sense that the whole world isn't quite as mentally tough ... there's so many other things for them to do.

"There's not as many gym rats, so to speak, in the world as there was back then. By the same token, they're still the same because they do what you make 'em do. They want discipline but they are not going to discipline themselves.

"The same thing we did in football games 200 years ago, you know, which is hard work, discipline and movement and contact.

"Some things have changed, yeah, but kind of like the essentials, the necessities, the staples, what's in people, that certainly hasn't changed."

And, by all accounts, neither has Louis Campbell.

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