State of the Hogs: Louis Campbell

Louis Campbell is headed to Ole Miss to coach on the field. Campbell has been at Arkansas the last 17 years, nine years in operations, eight as an on-field assistant coach. Here are some thoughts from Publisher Clay Henry

Joe Kines said it best years ago when he was introduced as interim head coach at Arkansas just hours after Jack Crowe was terminated.

"We are all interim," Kines said, covering more things than coaching football.

Louis Campbell has never seemed interim to me. He's as close to a sure thing as there is in this life. I grew up wanting to be like him on the football field. I wanted his jersey, a red No. 37, and to play like him on the field. Little did I know then that what I really needed was to be like him off the field.

Over the last four years, I've gotten to understand that in better terms, what Louis is like off the field, away from the game.

Oh, he's as good a football coach as there is around these parts. Mostly, he's been in football operations of late, not on-the-field coaching.

Nine of the last 10 years under Houston Nutt, that's what he did, handle administrative chores. He coached on the field in 2006, then went back to operations this past year.

I believe that Bobby Petrino, the new head coach, extended a similar offer in operations to Campbell this week.

Perhaps he didn't know enough about Campbell to put him on the field again, never mind that Reggie Herring, the interim head coach, asked him to coordinate the defense for the Cotton Bowl against Missouri. And, maybe this is Reggie's fault for putting him back on the field and getting those coaching juices flowing again.

Campbell has been more than an operation man during those last 10 seasons. He's been in the press box helping the staff during games, and within the rules, too. This year his job was to sit with offensive coordinator David Lee in the box, spotting secondary changes and personnel moves from the other sideline. He's who I'd want by my side.

There aren't any in coaching I trust more. His training is Frank Broyles and Paul "Bear" Bryant. He coached for Bryant the first four years after graduating from Arkansas in 1972. He returned to Arkansas in 1990 when Jack Crowe shored up his defense with the hiring of Kines as defensive coordinator. Kines wouldn't come without Campbell.

Campbell was retained by Danny Ford and then again by Nutt, albeit in a move that took him off the field and into operations/administration.

The truth is that Campbell probably could have stayed on the field if he had moved from Arkansas then, but I'm guessing he didn't because his three kids were in a solid place as far as school.

Between late 1988 and early 1990, he'd moved three times in one year between Stillwater, Tampa and Fayetteville. Staying in Fayetteville for 17 years gave them a pretty good base for a home.

I could write more about the nuts and bolts of his coaching ability, or administrative ability. You could cover it by saying he may be the most respected and loved man in the Broyles Center. But what I want to do is more personal than that. It's to write about the Louis Campbell I've gotten to know.

Standing in the Broyles Center the night Nutt resigned, I ran into H.D. McCarty, former pastor at University Baptist Church. I introduced myself to McCarty and mentioned that I heard many of his sermons, although I am not a church member. That didn't seem to establish anything until I told McCarty that I was a friend of one of his longtime members.

"You fish with Louis?" McCarty said. "There isn't anyone finer anywhere than that man. I know that man and we don't have enough time tonight to get to it all."

I've written about fishing trips in this space, most notably fly fishing on the White River/Norfork/Little Red rivers. More times than not, the man by my side was Louis. It started under the guise of me teaching Louis to fly fish. It quickly changed to him teaching me about other things.

As anyone who knows anything about fishing understands, it's not about the fishing. It's about the going. More to the point, it's about the ride, the stories, the sharing and the relationships.

Louis Campbell fishes. He fishes hard. Icy conditions don't slow him. Bad knees don't slow him. We fished the day before his knee was replaced last June, from dawn past dark. Yes, he fishes hard, but not always just for fish. It's like it says in the Bible. He fishes for men.

First time we went, we were about Yellville on the trip home when he shared his testimony and asked for mine. He pretty much knew it, but he still wanted to make sure. He was watching out for me, kinda like my wife did about 18 months before we were married.

Like Louis, I take my cell phone into the river when fly fishing. We've both lost a few phones when we've gone under. But there are times you need to get a call.

My wife doesn't usually phone when I'm in the river. Her timing is usually excellent. She knows we'll touch base on the ride home. An exception came last spring.

"I hate to call, but I think you need to know," she began, then explained that my mother had been rushed to a Benton hospital. I got the number for intensive care. It was minute to minute and down to life support.

I hurried over to Louis. We were in our favorite spot below Bull Shoals dam. We both turned to the bank as fast as we could go. The trip back normally takes two hours, 30 minutes. He covered it in 95 minutes, breaking the speed limit in Flippin, Yellville, Pyatt, Harrison, Alpena and Huntsville. I started the trip praying for my mother, but quickly switched to his driving.

I cried on that trip home. I laughed, too. Louis asked me to share stories about my mother. He knew what and how to handle those stories.

That's the way Louis has been for all of his 57 years. He's mentored to everyone along the way and that's not going to change. There are people who love him in Hamburg, Fayetteville, Tuscaloosa, Stillwater, Tampa and throughout Arkansas. It'll be the same in Oxford, Miss.

Louis Campbell was announced as Ole Miss secondary coach Friday afternoon. The Razorbacks will miss him, but not nearly as much as me.

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