A conversation with Peach County head coach Chad Campbell

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

Everyone knows about small-town Georgia high school football. It’s a story about how the town shuts down when the local high school team has a home game. It’s the type of place where kids grow up idolizing the players on the local team. It’s a story that resonates across the state in places where there isn’t much more to do than football.

Welcome to Fort Valley, in the heart of Georgia. Surrounded by fields of sprouting crops stands Anderson Field. It’s where the Peach County Trojans, led by coach Chad Campbell, take over the town for several nights in the fall.

Chad Campbell has been an athlete all his life, and that got him interested in coaching early in his college career. Campbell played baseball at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton for a season and ended up at Georgia Southwestern in Americus. During his time there, he decided to change majors from a business degree to physical education, realizing that business classes were not for him.

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Coach Chad Campbell

The change of major led Campbell to Peach County, where he has been involved with the Trojans football team for 24 years, taking over the head coaching job in 2006. Since Campbell took the helm, the Trojans have had an impressive record of 95-19. Campbell has led Peach to the playoffs every season, and in 2009 they went 15-0 after defeating Gainesville 13-12 in the title game. This season the Trojans are ranked No. 3 and have only one blemish on their record, a 49-31 loss to Class AAAAAA’s No. 1-ranked Houston County.

In 2015, Campbell had an opportunity to do what all younger brothers would like to do, be the boss of his older brother. Lee Campbell resigned as athletic director and head coach at Crisp County and was hired to be the defensive coordinator at Peach County. The elder Campbell has an impressive coaching career in his own right. While at Hawkinsville the Red Devils went 85-28-1 and won the 2003 state title and shared the 2004 title with Clinch County

Chad Campbell took time Monday to answer questions in a wide-ranging Q&A:

Q. Growing up, did you want to be a coach?

A. I played football, baseball, basketball in high school. I played all four years in baseball and football. Then I went to college and played baseball. I had the opportunity to play either-or, and I chose to play baseball instead. I went to ABAC and redshirted my freshman year, I had knee surgery. I played a year and then went to Georgia Southwestern and played baseball for three years.

Q. Does Peach have what it takes to win state this year?

A. Well that’s our goal. I haven’t seen everybody, but I know we have to get better. The kids are playing hard, but we have a long way to go as far as correcting all of our mistakes. But to be honest, I don’t know what the other people look like so I couldn’t even judge ourselves against the high-level competition in AAA. I think if we stay healthy we have a chance. But like I said, I haven’t seen any of the upper-echelon teams; all I have seen is teams from our region. You probably could tell me more than I can. But we sure don’t want to peak too early. I feel good where we are at. I just want to clean things up and have everybody on the same page. I do know we have to stay healthy. We are not very deep, so we need to stay healthy.

Q. You faced tragedy at the start of the season, losing Raekwon Smith in an automobile accident. How have you and the team responded?

A. I mean our kids have been very, very good. But it was a devastating start. But I think it is kind of getting better each and every week. In that regard, I think they have handled things very well and are moving on.

Q: Tell me about the come-from-behind win against Mary Persons. You were behind 19-0 entering the 4th quarter.

A: Things like that happen for a reason. And maybe somebody was looking down on us. I think it is a thing that can take you a long way in a season. Coming from behind 19 points against a quality opponent. It was one of my most memorable wins ever. I wish we didn’t have to do that, coming from behind, but I thought we played decent in the first three quarters. Our play-makers didn’t make plays. We dropped eight balls that could have been big plays. But it was a great memory.

Q: What made you decide you wanted to be a coach?

A. I looked up to my head coach in high school, Jeff Caldwell. He was like a second father to me. Growing up, me and my brother, all we did was play ball. That’s all we did. We wanted to be outside playing ball. And my coach in high school, coach Caldwell, was always joking, “There ain’t no money in coaching.” So when I got to school I majored in business because I had heard that coaches don’t make any money. So after my fourth year of college, my junior year of baseball, I called my mom and told her I was changing my major from business to P.E. She said, “Well what is that gonna do?” And I told her “I will go from being a senior to a sophomore.” I must have lost 45 of 50 credit hours. But that’s what I did. It is what I wanted to do. It took me a few more years to be done with school, but it was well worth it. It got to be where I wasn’t making the grades and I couldn’t stand the classes. I told myself that I couldn’t do this for the rest of my life. So I said, “I’m gonna do what I enjoy doing.” I just wanted to be around kids and be around (football). I remember my first job making $19,000 a year, you know, but I thought that was a million at the time.

Q. What has changed in high school football in general in the past 20 years?

A. Kids. They are just not as tough as they used to be. They watch TV. You know, I think it all comes from NFL, college and trickles down. And then, with all the technology over the past 20 years, kids would rather stay home and play video games or be on the phone or Facebook. Kids are just not brought up to be as tough anymore. Back in the day, my generation and the generations before me, there wasn’t anything to do but play ball and work. I think parents were a little tougher back in the day. You had to do a lot more labor. And now kids don’t have to do that. I’m amazed when we do stuff in the weight room, swinging sledge hammers or whatnot, and we have to show them how to do it. It’s like swinging an axe and chopping wood. Kids don’t know what that is or what that’s all about. I just think they aren’t as tough, but I think we have pretty tough kids here, being from here. That is probably the most that’s changed. And also, you didn’t hear about this back in the day, kids moving schools and transfers and all that. That’s where I think social media has taken over. People think they can get their kids recruited here or there. There is no loyalty to schools or where you grew up, and that’s another thing.

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