CALGARY — Gone are the days of outsiders calling Rick Campbell Baby Hughie in deference to his famous father.
In modern times, the Calgary Stampeders defensive co-ordinator is best known for constructing game plans that leave the opposition totally bewildered about what’s coming next.
A small, highly unscientific polling of his charges reveals that most of them have zero knowledge of Campbell’s rich Canadian Football League bloodlines
And he likes it that way.
“I bet most of the players here don’t know and they don’t care — and that’s good,” Campbell says, peeling off his parka after a frigid practice in preparation for Sunday’s Western semifinal against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. “Obviously, I’m proud of who my dad is. I’m not hiding from it or anything.
“But it’s good they can judge me on who I am.”
For the uninitiated, Rick’s father Hugh Campbell belongs on the CFL version of Mount Rushmore alongside the likes of the late Ron Lancaster and Bobby Ackles, the retired Don Matthews, and the active Wally Buono.
Known as “Gluey Huey” as a receiver, the elder Campbell won a Grey Cup with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1966. Upon retirement, he served as head coach of the five-in-a-row Edmonton Eskimos. Following the 1982 season he left to become head coach of the USFL’s Los Angeles Express. After one season he moved to the NFL, where he served as head coach of the Houston Oilers in 1984 and ’85.
In 1986, he moved back to Edmonton where he ruled as president of the powerhouse Eskimos for 20 years. Known to have the ear of various commissioners, Campbell exerted such influence many in jest called it the Campbell Football League.
To call him a legend is no hyperbole.
“I never knew anything different, because he was always a coach when I was a kid,” Rick Campbell says. “But the one thing I give my parents credit for is that they did a great job of being normal. My parents didn’t act any different than anyone else, because my dad was a coach.
“I never knew anything different. I just thought my dad had a job, just like anybody else’s dad had a job.”
A school teacher by trade, Rick caught the coaching bug during his three years as a defensive assistant at the University of Oregon. In 1999, he went to work for his dad as the linebackers/special-teams coach with the Eskimos.
“Maybe I was a little bit naive,” Rick says. “I just trusted that people who work with me — the coaches and players — can judge me for who I am. I’m sure there were some people on the outside in Edmonton who maybe that bothered them in some way.
“But as long as the people I worked with — the players and coaches — had my respect and believed in what I was doing, then I was OK.”
Thirteen years later, Hugh Campbell has long since retired and is enjoying life with his wife Louise in sunny San Diego (they apparently like to complain when it dares to rain.) Rick, on the other hand, continues to build his credentials as a coach in his own right here in the frozen north.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for Rick,” says all-star cornerback Keon Raymond. “He knows he has a veteran group out there. He allows us to play, and he allows us to have some input on things. That’s big.”
“The results speak for themselves,” says linebacker Juwan Simpson. “He came in here this season and did great things with this defence.”
In what could have been a rebuilding season (due to the defection of former defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones to Toronto), the Stamps ranked third in points against (430) and third in first downs against (356). They also rebounded from a tough year on the defensive line to tie Winnipeg for second in sacks for (43.) Right about now, head coach/GM John Hufnagel looks awfully smart for this hire.
“He is not just Hugh’s son,” says long snapper Randy Chevrier, who played for Rick Campbell over a decade ago in Edmonton.
“He has a solid reputation around the league. There’s a reason why coach Huff decided this guy would be great for our staff.
“Obviously, it’s great for the Campbell family that the name has continued in football circles. But for sure, he’s his own man.”
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