Aside from his short stint as a player at Pitt before transferring to division III school Mount Union, Campbell has spent his entire youth and football playing/coaching career in the state of Ohio. The former Toledo head coach found it easy to see the Big 12 opportunity as more familiar territory than foreign land when it came to leaving the Buckeye State.
“The culture around the (Iowa State) program, the leadership at the University, those were things that fit who we were, our coaching staff, and building a program that I really believed in. So that’s been an almost seamless transition, a little bit, in moving to Iowa,” Campbell told reporters on Monday.
Playing to your brand new fan base? Perhaps, but players saw more of the same.
“Ever since he’s gotten on campus, it’s just been like I mean nothing really even happened,” Quarterback Joel Lanning told Cylconefanatics.com’s Chris Williams in an interview Monday. “Just kind of feels like they’re–like we were at home with them right away.”
When Toledo played Iowa State in 2014, pre-game jitters got coach out of the hotel well before the team, which got him to experience what surrounds game day in Ames.
“I would rather get to the stadium and get out and throw the football and be around our guys and we got there early. The passion, the energy, the crowd, the environment, I was blown away by that experience there in Ames, and if you’ve been there and people have seen it, it’s a special fan base.”
Even though Campbell marched his Toledo teams into hallowed grounds of college football like the Swamp and the Horseshoe, this day was different.
“I left there that day, getting to Jack Trice Stadium, feeling that environment and watching it throughout that game. I did go home to my wife, and I said this is a really special place. It’s unique. It’s got a great setting and something special could happen here.”
Though most cultural references that Campbell dropped, were in regards to the upper midwest, corn belt way of life, or the loyal fan support of Cyclone nation, it was also the culture on the gridiron of the conference that coach found an additional comfort level co-existing with.
“Obviously, on a much, much smaller scale I think the Mid-American Conference is very similar in terms of scoring a lot of points, up-tempo offense, trying to outscore people, getting in shootout games and kind of what it made its niche for as well.”
However, Coach Campbell did not propose an offensive philosophy that would try to imitate the pass happy league and reiterated, “we have to be us. We can’t try to be somebody else.” Knowing who you are helped Campbell’s Rockets accrue a 50-35 mark while at Toledo.
Luckily, Campbell has a great talent in Sophomore Running back Mike Warren who comes off a 1,300 plus yard freshman campaign to add that threat of a balanced approach. Campbell by no means will be shy in bonding with and figuring out how to use Warren, as he lost the recruiting battle of Warren to Iowa State when at Toledo.
Campbell, may be the youngest head coach in the league, usurping that title from Kliff Kingsbury by three calendar months, but found a way to sound old hat to the tune of his fan base and the entire conference’s footprint by the time he walked off the stage at the Omni.