Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Campbell able to relate to team

Young coach a favorite among players


University of Toledo head football coach Matt Campbell has eased the transition between coaches after the turbulent departure of former coach Tim Beckman.

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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WASHINGTON -- As the father of two young girls, Matt Campbell has seen his fair share of Disney movies in the last few years.

So it should come as no surprise that when the University of Toledo football coach needs some inspirational film clips to show his team, he often turns to his daughters' DVD collection.

"It's funny because a lot of those [Disney movies] relate to life and a lot of it related to our football season," Campbell said. "[I] just try to get our kids to smile every once in a while and have a little bit of fun. I know they appreciate it."

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Campbell also pointed to one cogent part in The Lion King to sum up the recent, rocky turn for the Rockets with the departure of head coach Tim Beckman to Illinois and the naming of Campbell to take his place.

"I like it when [Rafiki] hits [Simba] in the head and tells him, 'It's in the past,'" Campbell said. "I think that's the best thing for this program. We've got to move on from the past and keep going toward the future."

Campbell, who was the Rockets' offensive coordinator for the last three seasons under Beckman, said the past 16 days since being named a head coach for the first time in his career have been a whirlwind.

"I don't know if it ever sinks in," said Campbell, who will coach his first game Wednesday against Air Force in the Military Bowl. "I think it's just a process. You try to put your kids in the best position to be successful whether you're [coaching] offense, defense, and special teams, and now it's looking at the whole plan and making sure we're sound in everything that we do."

The Rockets say Campbell hasn't changed since taking over the head coaching duties and has some key dissimilarities to Beckman.

As the youngest coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) at 32 years old, Campbell relates better to his players, according to senior right tackle John Morookian.

"He knows what we're going through and it's not just X's and O's with him," Morookian said. "Beckman had relationships, but I'd say Campbell has closer relationships. He realizes what may seem monotonous to his players and doesn't have an old-fashioned mindset.

"He understands what we're seeing and brings the best out of this team."

While offensive coaches usually aren't able to connect with defensive players and vice versa, Campbell's background as a two-time All-American defensive end at Mount Union gives him instant credibility with the defense.

"He's a guy you really want to play for," junior linebacker Robert Bell said. "As a guy who played defense, he loves the defensive part just as much as the offensive, and that makes us feel good at the same time."

Campbell was the overwhelming popular choice among players to be the Rockets' 26th head coach in program history, so it came as no surprise he has been welcomed with open arms.

"He's a great guy to play for," Morookian said. "When you have a coach like that, you get more out of your players, and I couldn't be happier with the decision they made."

How the Rockets would respond to Beckman's departure and how it would affect them in their matchup against Air Force was a looming question earlier this month.

During bowl preparations over the last two weeks, it has become clear that Campbell's hiring has eased what otherwise would have been troubled waters.

"He's an energetic, young guy," Bell said. "He's bonded well with the team, and everyone's spirits have been high ever since even when he was the interim coach. We're all pulling for the guy."

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