Tiger times two
A Tiger at MCHS, Campbell went on to star at AU, too
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
He grew up an Alabama fan, but he found enduring fame while playing at Auburn.
Randy Campbell of Morgan County High School was astonished when, at the end of his sophomore year, his coach informed him he might be good enough to play college football.
"Don Woods told me right after 10th grade that Vandy had asked about me," Campbell said. "That really motivated me to get better and go on to play in college. It really excited me. It planted the dream in my mind that I wanted to play college football."
Campbell soon received recruiting letters from Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Memphis State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn.
Then, the school he hoped would contact him did. A letter from The University of Alabama arrived during his junior season. However, Campbell never heard from the Crimson Tide again.
"I had really admired Johnny Musso, I guess that's what made me a Bama fan. When I was a Morgan County High Tiger, we looked like Alabama. We wore crimson and white. I dreamed of playing for the Tide, but it just didn't happen."
"Walter Lewis was the Tide quarterback when I was at Auburn and he was an outstanding player for them," Campbell said. "So I may not have played at all if I had gone there. It actually turned out better for me at Auburn."
Campbell attended the Auburn spring game in 1978 and he quickly decided it was the right place for him.
Campbell's senior season in Hartselle turned out to be a memorable one, as Morgan County completed a 9-1 season and hosted the Cullman Bearcats in the first round of the state playoffs.
"Back then, you had to be good to get in the playoffs," Campbell said. "You didn't have fourth place teams in a region getting in like today.
"We lost to Cullman, which was a heartbreaking game. We had beaten them in the regular season, but we just didn't get it done the second time around."
Campbell, who was a T-formation quarterback at MCHS, went to Auburn the following season to run the Veer offense under Tiger head coach Doug Barfield.
Things soon changed when shortly after his freshman season, Barfield was let go and Pat Dye was hired. Dye installed the wishbone offense at Auburn and the Tigers' fortunes quickly turned.
Following a 5-6 season in 1981, the Tigers went 8-3 in Campbell's first year as starting quarterback.
Auburn then faced Boston College in the Tangerine Bowl. The game would provide Campbell with one of the fondest memories of his playing career.
"Boston College had Doug Flutie and we had Bo Jackson," Campbell said. "Two Heisman trophy winners played in that game, but I was named MVP.
"That's the best game passing I ever had. Having 177 yards in the air is a lot for a wishbone quarterback to have. I guess that's why they chose me MVP."
Campbell completed 10-of-17 passes to help the Tigers build a 33-10 lead before Boston College scored two late touchdowns to make the final 33-26. When the final polls were released that season, the Tigers were ranked No. 14.
Campbell and the Tigers would climb higher in the polls during his senior season of 1983. Auburn finished the regular season with a 10-1 record and a No. 3 ranking. Auburn was matched against No. 8 Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.
Auburn topped the Wolverines 9-7, meanwhile No.1 Nebraska and No. 2 Texas both lost their bowl games. Many Auburn supporters and players were hoping that the Tigers would be named National Champions the next day when the final polls were announced.
"I thought we had won the National Championship," Campbell said. "But Jack Crowe, my quarterback coach, told me not to get too excited. He said you never know about polls. He told me to just wait and see. But, when I went to bed that night, I was convinced we had won it."
Campbell's joy was dashed the next day when the Miami Hurricanes, who had defeated Nebraska 31-30 in the Orange Bowl, were ranked No. 1 in both of the final polls. Nebraska was No. 2 while the Tigers remained at No. 3.
"I really felt we were more deserving," Campbell said. "Miami lost to Florida 28-3 and we beat Florida 28-21.
"I was recently told that the NCAA researched it and we played a tougher schedule than Miami. I think it shows we deserved the title."
After college, Campbell coached at the University of North Alabama for five years, two of those seasons serving as the team's offensive coordinator. Campbell, who has been married to wife Nancy for 16 years, then changed careers when he went into his present profession of selling life insurance.
He returned to the eye of Auburn fans when he provided color commentary on Pay-per-View television broadcasts of Tigers' games from 1994-98.
Campbell, who compiled a 20-4 record as starting quarterback at Auburn, remains a popular speaker on the banquet circuit in Alabama.
"I like to tell football stories," Campbell said. "The fans seem to want to hear about the '83 team the most."
Campbell, who won both games he started against Alabama, was astounded on a recent radio interview. The number of callers who had fond memories of his playing days caught him by surprise.
"I thought there would be one or two callers and the segment would end," Campbell said. "I had no idea so many people would call in and want to talk to me."
The segment lasted an hour. But more remarkable to Campbell were the callers who remembered details of the 1983 season when the Tigers came so close to a national title.
"Auburn fans still have a lot of love for the '83 team," Campbell said. "But I'm realistic, I know the next time Auburn wins a national title, the '83 team will move a notch down in their hearts."