Dan Campbell: “I was definitely a grunt. I think you can say that I was a ditch digger. In college, we were a run the ball on first, second and third down team. We occasionally ran a play-action pass and then punted it and let the defense win the game. I always thought of myself as somebody who was hard-nosed. I wanted to be an extension of the offensive line. I always thought of myself as a smaller tackle and I wanted to play that way. I didn't ever want a defensive end to think that just because he was going against a tight end that he was going to have the better of me. I wanted to prove to myself that I could go toe-to-toe with anybody in the league in the run game — and pass protection, for that matter. And then if I was called upon to run routes, then that’s what I did and I wanted to make the most of that. But I always felt as a tight end that your first job is to block for your running back. You have to set a point on the line of scrimmage and that’s job number one and then everything else will fall in line after that.”
What was your career highlight?
Campbell: ”I think for me it had to do with a team accomplishment when we won the Big 12 championship against Kansas State in 1998. We didn’t have a chance because they were No. 1 in the country. I believe we were down 15 points with like nine minutes left in the fourth quarter and came back and won. We actually won in double overtime, 36-33. That was a great memory. That’s one of those that will stick with you because it was a great team effort and a great team win with the offense and defense not giving up. It was one of those you never forget.”
How would you summarize your career?
Campbell: “I did what I was asked to do. I split time with a guy (Derrick Spiller) all the way up until my senior year. I was asked to do a certain role and the other player was asked to do a different role than I was, but we played at the same time. I embraced that role and I felt like I did that role very well and was able to gain a career out of it. I was going to do my part as a team player. I enjoyed that role and we won a lot of games. I think if you had to summarize it I was a team player and I was fine with that and I loved it.”
How do you feel your experience as a player has helped you as a coach?
Campbell: “The best thing about it is that because I played the game and I’m not really that far removed from it, I can still put myself in their shoes. I can literally put myself in any tight end’s body and I could say, ‘could you do that? And if you can’t, then maybe what would you do different that maybe would help him?’ I know what’s going through their heads before they even say it. There are times where they’ll come off and I’ll say exactly what I thought by how I would have played it and it’s dead on. The trap you’ve got to be careful not falling into is as an ex-player, you can’t just let everything go and say, ‘Hey, that’s impossible.’ That’s the one thing about coaches throughout the years is you have to identify what players can and can’t do but you can’t just say things are impossible. You’ve got to find a way to get it done. No matter how hard the job may be, you have to get it done.”