Coaching legend ponders retirement, but
still enjoys game
By JAMIE COMBS
In a compact-disc, stereo-surround world,
Hampton head football coach J.C. Campbell remains more old-fashioned
than an eight-track player in a 1972 Chevrolet pickup.
Campbell simply doesn't tinker with success.
However, for the man who took over the Bulldog
program in 1968 -- making for a career that spans into five
decades -- his 34th season at the helm could be his last.
"It's probably true," said Campbell when asked
if this will be his final year on the sidelines. "There's
nothing written in stone or anything."
A former Hampton High quarterback who's been
a part of the Bulldog coaching staff for 40 years, Campbell
owns an excellent career record of 210-134, underscored by
a 128-66 conference worksheet.
Under Campbell's guidance, three Hampton teams
(1979, 1983, 1996) went as far as the state quarterfinals,
while his 1969 and 1996 squads posted undefeated regular seasons.
So what makes 2001 the right year to perhaps
call it quits?
"I reckon you're supposed to retire at a certain
age," said the 64-year-old Campbell, the all-time leader in
Upper-East Tennessee victories. "I don't know. I feel good
and everything. I still enjoy it.
"Everybody you see says, 'When are you going
to retire?' and you get to thinking, 'Maybe they know something.'"
But during the last three seasons, in which the
program came in touch with a rare down cycle (12-19 record),
Campbell lived up to his reputation of getting the most out
of his players, squeezing out a 12-10 league worksheet while
refusing to let Hampton drop below the middle of the Watauga
Now that the 'Dogs are possibly on the verge
of a resurgence, Campbell aims to leave the program in good
"I want to leave them in a good note," he explained.
"I don't want to leave them dry. Of course, I'd say the amount
that you enjoy a season will play a part (in retirement decision).
"I don't think I've ever talked to the kids about
wins and losses. We've talked about playing hard and doing
right, then wins and losses take care of themselves. If I've
talked about wins and losses to them, I don't remember it."
If this is to be Campbell's grand finale, senior
fullback Jeremy Hall said the 'Dogs want to send their coach
out on a winning note.
"We'd love to," Hall said. "That would be pretty
good. It would be a good goal for us to achieve."
Also, said Hall, Hampton's players share a great
deal of respect for their mentor.
"He's easy to get along with," said Hall. "He's
an easy-going guy."
Over the years, Campbell's biggest disappointments
occurred when boys he was depending on decided to quit football
for what he called "flimsy reasons."
He hates to see athletes pass up their one opportunity
to participate on the high school gridiron.
Overall, though, the trusted players and enjoyable
times override those disappointments.
"I've totally enjoyed doing what I've done,"
Campbell said. "There have been moments that it looked like
you'd like to walk off. I'd say a banker, even a minister,
has those moments, too.
"A great deal of the kids that play are always
coming back around and coming to the games, coming around
to practice and all that sort of stuff. We're still kindly
Obviously, the game of football has been good
to J.C. Campbell. And J.C. Campbell continues to be good for
the game of football.
One more season may not be enough.