ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU) - Jimtown Jimmies quarterback Clay Campbell has been spending the past two weeks gearing up for the season opener.
For Campbell, it's a family affair.
“I’ve always wanted to play for my dad growing up, because he was the coach here when I was little,” Clay said. “I finally get to live it.”
Clay gets to live out his dream every time he gets ready for practice, dressing in his Jimtown jersey to head out to the field to meet his head coach … his dad.
“It’s just so much more fun having your dad there,” Clay said. “We’re a football family, but it’s not always about football. I mean, I love my dad more than anything. It’s just awesome being around him every day.”
Mike Campbell has been the coach at Jimtown since 2008. But it has been during the past four years that he has had the chance to merge two of his biggest roles, coach and dad.
“It’s supposed to be one of the best times of his life, and it’s supposed to be a good time for me too,” Mike said. “That’s what my wife tells us. We’re trying to always work it out and have fun and enjoy the moment, because it’s going to be gone soon.”
Mike and his wife have three children, but Clay is the only one who has played for him.
“I think he knows how I’m feeling sometimes and vice versa,” Mike said. “Sometimes we can help each other. Sometimes we can’t. It is a neat relationship, and it’s a neat experience that we’re going to try and enjoy the best we can. Hopefully, have some great memories for the rest of our lives.”
The father-son duo is always looking out for each other through the stress of the game.
“I try not to be too hard on him,” Mike said. “I think he’s hard on himself. I want him to relax and have fun. I think he says the same thing to me, you know, ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself, relax and have fun.’”
“It just takes me a little bit,” Clay said. “I just have to calm down. I kind of have to back away from him a little bit. We both can get mad at each other sometimes, but at the end of the day, we always love each other.”
Even after a bad loss, Clay still feels like he can talk to his dad.
“He’s just always there to build me up,” Clay said. “I try to build him up too. He’s a little better at it than me, but I try."
Mike says it’s important for him to remind Clay and his entire team that this whole experience is bigger than football.
“Football’s fun, but it’s a game,” Mike said. “We kind of keep that in perspective. There’s more to life than winning and losing on a Friday night. These kids are so much more than that. So that’s what we try to instill in our kids. Try as hard as you can. Prepare as hard as you can. At the end of the day, if you don’t win, that’s OK. It wasn’t meant to be.”
As a senior, Clay’s time with his dad as his coach is winding down. He says it’s been one of his best memories of his life so far.
“I want to win a championship with him,” Clay said. “That’s our goal, win a championship conference, sectionals, as many as we can. I just want to win one with him. I think that’d be awesome.”
The Campbells' final season together officially begins on Aug. 23 as Jimtown takes on Northwood.