• John Macon Gillespie

Catching Up With Michael Campbell

In his first season a head coach, Michael Campbell is living out a dream at Smithville. He’s guided the Seminoles to a 7-2(5-1) start, and they are chasing a playoff game at home with two games left in the regular season.

SES: What’s been in like for you in year one, especially considering it is at a place with so much history?

Campbell: It’s been a great transition. I’ve been blessed to work under some great head coaches, and I knew how I wanted to run a program based off things I’ve learned along the way. Chad Collums had the program in great shape when I took over, and I’ve just tried to carry on with the work ethic and tradition of winning here at Smithville.

SES: What were some of the things you wanted to implement once you became a head coach?

Campbell: I knew I wanted to have discipline. I wanted a blue collar work ethic. And I wanted a family atmosphere. As far as the football part, I wanted to be sound on defense and swarm the ball. On offense, I wanted to be very multiple with formations, have the ability to control the tempo, and run the football to setup the passing game.

SES: Which coaches influenced those things?

Campbell: Learned a ton of offense from Kris Pickle, the guy is very smart and creative. I learned a lot from Toby Collums on being a first-time head coach. I was at Itawamba AHS when he was hired there. He’s also very knowledgable on offense; learned a ton about the run game from him. And then Trent Hammond is one of the smartest I’ve ever worked for. His knowledge of the game is unbelievable. Learned a ton from him about defense. To be honest, there are many things I emulate from Trent and the way he does things. There is a reason he has been successful everywhere he’s been and has Tupelo where they currently are.

SES: To get that call to be a head coach, what was that moment like for you?

Campbell: It was surreal and nerve wracking all at the same time. Something that I had worked so hard towards had come to be, but I knew it meant there was a lot of hard work ahead. The coolest moment was after I had accepted the job, I met my new staff one night and had board member come to introduce himself. He turned the lights on to the stadium and said “wanted you to see your new office.” At that moment, it hit me that it was all for real. Really cool moment.

SES: A lot goes into making a program as consistently successful as Smithville has been. More than just talent and coaching. What is the community’s connecting with the program like?

Campbell: The support is like non other. We have some of the nicest facilities around, great fans, and a community that loves it’s football. There are several players that their dads played and their granddads played. A lot of tradition and pride.

SES: What have been the keys to success for y’all so far this season?

Campbell: Being able to establish a running game with different contributors. Our offensive line has done well for the most part. We’ve been able to run on loaded boxes at times. Our passing game really opens up once we have been able to run it. And on defense, our kids have done a good job with learning how to line up week to week and play fast. We keep things simple and let them make plays. Our middle linebackers have been big for us this year.

SES: Talk about the challenges you guys took on in the non-division slate and how that’s helping at this point in the season?

Campbell: Week one at Belmont against a wing T team. Had to play assignment defense and get the offense figured out on the fly. Week two against a Hatley team that is much improved under a new coach that runs a non-traditional offense. Both teams were much bigger than us in size and depth. Our kids found a way to win. Went on the road against a really good East Webster team, and went toe-to-toe with them early, but couldn’t stay with them. We learned how to battle and fight till the end, and learned not to quit. We have one more non-division game next week when Nanih Waiya comes to Smithville. We all know how good they are, they will be a great challenge for us.

SES: Not every coach gets to coach a player like Dustin Moffett. What makes him so special?

Campbell: Dustin is special because he works so hard. He’s got natural talent, but is never satisfied with just being good. He’s got that “it” factor. He’s been playing varsity football since his 8th grade year. He’s got a lot of time invested and has paid his dues. He’s seizing his moment. He’s a great kid and just finds ways to get the job done. He’s also very special because we can line him up at slot receiver, running back, safety, corner, long snapper and kick returner. It allows him to have a huge impact on every game.

SES: What are your thoughts of the matchup tonight?

Campbell: TCPS is a good football team that has gotten better every week. They have a great coaching staff, that has them playing hard. It’s an important game for sure, the winner will most likely finish second and host round one.

They have a talented quarterback, who can run well. So we will have to try to contain him and make sure we can line up to their multiple sets on offense. I think we are similar teams. Should be a great game.

**Photo courtesy of Janice Howell

#Smithville #JohnLukeMcCord

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