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Born to coach Matt Campbell, University of Toledo's new interim football coach, runs drills with his players during practice at the UT campus on Friday.
Matt Campbell, University of Toledo's new interim football coach, runs drills with his players during practice at the UT campus on Friday.
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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Born to coach: Campbell comes from football family

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Much like Tim Beckman, Matt Campbell comes from a football family and always dreamed of becoming a head coach in college football.

And it is because of Beckman, who left the University of Toledo on Friday to become the head coach at the University of Illinois, that Campbell is now guiding a program for the first time in his career after being named the Rockets' interim coach for their matchup against Air Force in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28 in Washington.

Only 32 years old, Campbell has served as the Rockets' offensive coordinator for the last three seasons under Beckman.

"He's ready, and he's done a terrific job in his years here," UT athletic director Mike O'Brien said. "We have a very important bowl game coming up on Dec. 28, and we are pleased that Matt Campbell will be leading our team on an interim basis and serving as our head coach for the game versus Air Force."

During his three years at UT, Beckman often said that he had "46 years of coaching experience" because of his exposure to the sport at a very young age. His father, Dave, was a long-time football coach at the high school, college and professional levels, and Beckman maintained he even had a football in his cradle as a baby.

A native of the pigskin hotbed of Massillon, Ohio, where baby boys are presented with a miniature football at birth, Campbell too was born to be a coach.

His father, Rick, was the football coach at Massillon Jackson High School and later served as principal there. He now serves as athletic director at Canton South High School.

Matt Campbell file

Born: Nov. 29, 1979

Hometown: Massillon, Ohio

School: Mount Union '02

Coaching Experience: Toledo (offensive coordinator/offensive line, 2010-11; run game coordinator/offensive line, 2009); Bowling Green (run game coordinator/offensive line, 2008; offensive line, 2006-07; graduate assistant, 2003-04); Mount Union (offensive coordinator/offensive line, 2004-05).

 "Matt Campbell is one of the brightest young minds in college football today," Beckman said at his introductory news conference with the Illini. "He's a winner. He's a champion. He's been involved in national championships as a coach and as a player. He's a coach's son.

"I guarantee you I'll be trying to get Matt Campbell."

Coaching dreams

While the allure of becoming an offensive coordinator in the Big Ten has to tempt Campbell, he also realizes the opportunity he's been presented with at Toledo.

"My goal has always been to be a head football coach somewhere down the road," Campbell said. "To come together with these kids and to have an opportunity to play this game, I'm thrilled to be in this position."

Campbell and O'Brien said they both expect the entire coaching staff, minus Beckman, to remain intact until the Military Bowl. How many stick around after that remains to be seen, and whether or not Campbell is named UT's 26th head coach in program history could be a factor in that.

Campbell, though, said he's not concerning himself with the future and received no indications from O'Brien in their first meeting Friday morning that he'll have the "interim" tag dropped from his job title.

He's instead focused on guiding the Rockets through this rough patch and making sure the team stays together during this transitional period.

"Change is inevitable, but greatness is a choice," Campbell said. "That's the thing our kids believe in here, that's the thing I believe in, and I think that we know that we have an opportunity to finish this great season, and we have a chance to be great. I think that's what the focus [will be]."

Newly named University of Toledo interim head football coach Matt Campbell, center, makes his way through UT football players in a hallway at the Larimer Athletic Complex on the UT campus in Toledo, Friday. Newly named University of Toledo interim head football coach Matt Campbell, center, makes his way through UT football players in a hallway at the Larimer Athletic Complex on the UT campus in Toledo, Friday.
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Ohio roots

It's oft debated which county has the best football in the pigskin rich state of Ohio, and Stark County is always in that discussion.

Whether it's Massillon, Canton, Alliance, North Canton or any of the other cities, towns, and villages that make up that area of northeast Ohio, there's no doubt football is king there.

Campbell excelled on the gridiron at Massillon Perry High School, and when it came time to pick a college, he chose to stay in Stark County.

Campbell attended Division III powerhouse Mount Union, where he won three straight national championships from 2000-02 and was named an All-American at defensive end in 2001 and '02.

After college, Campbell took a graduate assistant position at Bowling Green State University, working with the tight ends for teams that won the 2003 Motor City Bowl and 2004 GMAC Bowl. It's also where he first met Beckman, who was the Falcons' defensive coordinator at the time.

From 2004-05, Campbell served as the offensive coordinator at Mount Union and helped lead the Purple Raiders to two more national titles.

After that, he returned to Bowling Green for three more seasons -- two as offensive line coach and one as offensive line coach and run-game coordinator -- before linking back up with Beckman at Toledo.

"I've been blessed," he said. "I've been around football my whole life. My dad was a head football coach down in the Stark County area, and I've been in Ohio all my life."

At each of his various assistant coaching stops, Campbell said he's taken bits and pieces from each of the coaches he's worked under -- from Larry Kehres at Mount Union to Gregg Brandon at BGSU and Beckman at UT.

"If that's your goal and that's your dream, you have to prepare and know what's at stake," Campbell said. "And when you have the opportunity to showcase yourself, you have to do a great job."

For at least the next 2 1/2 weeks, Campbell has that chance as the Rockets' interim coach.

Contact Zach Silka at: zsilka@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.



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