When NFL Network analyst Jeff Darlington was assigned a story on Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell, he went into the interview very even-keel and even-minded. Why? Because Darlington simply didn’t want to buy into all the hype surrounding the tough, Oklahoma-drill-loving Campbell.
That didn’t last long.
“He’s just so cool,” Darlington said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “You walk away and you’re like, ‘God, I have a man crush.’”
Darlington then told the nutshell story of the 39-year-old Campbell, a former third-round pick who played for four NFL teams.
“Essentially, he was on injured reserve with the Saints in 2009, and he knew his career was coming to an end,” Darlington said of the former tight end. “It was an 11-year career. He wasn’t going to be able to play. He was at home with his wife while he was on inured reserve, and he remembers having a conversation with her saying he didn’t want to be a coach because he didn’t want to have to sleep in the office. Ultimately, though, he decided he loved football and wanted to at least see what coaching was all about.”
So, Campbell got in his pickup trick – with a 40-foot trailer – drove to his alma mater, Texas A&M, parked at an RV park, showed up to practice, and just started coaching with former Aggies coach Mike Sherman, trying to learn the craft.
“After three weeks, he realized he loved it,” Darlington said, “and Tony Sparano, the Dolphins head coach at the time, invited him to join the Dolphins staff. Five years later, here we are.”
Campbell, if you’re curious, didn’t rent the 40-foot trailer; he owned it.
“Of course Dan Campbell owns a 40-foot trailer,” Darlington said. “This guy’s a badass.”
He’s also, in the words of Darlington, a modern-day William Wallace – minus the dispute with England.
“Not only is his legend growing, not only are people on the outside having fun with it, but I was in that Dolphins locker room,” Darlington explained. “It was real, man. These players are legit into him. So I think this is a situation where if he can play well, absolutely this is his job to lose.”
It helps, of course, that Campbell is the exact opposite of former coach Joe Philbin. Campbell is young, intimidating, demands respect and doesn’t just talk about toughness; he lives it.
“This is not just the opposite of Joe Philbin,” Darlington said. “This guy is exceptional when it comes to these leadership qualities, to getting through to these players and extracting that potential. So yes, he is the opposite of Philbin, and that’s probably a really good thing, but even outside of Philbin altogether, I think that if we saw this guy leading, we would be really impressed.”