Randy Campbell found himself at a crossroad.
He was just completing his first year as quarterbacks coach on “The Plains” in 1992 when his old coach, Pat Dye, decided to retire.
Dye’s announcement on the eve of the annual Iron Bowl matchup with Alabama that year left Campbell with a tough choice to make. He could continue in football, the game he had played, coached and loved his entire life, although most likely it would be somewhere else besides his alma mater. Or he could put the business degree he had earned from Auburn in 1984 to use and go in an entirely different direction.
After much thought, Campbell chose the life insurance business over football, and more than 25 years later he calls it “the best decision I could have made for me and my family.”
Now the owner and managing partner of Campbell Wealth Management, a Birmingham, Alabama-based firm that specializes in fee-based investment advisory services and wealth transfer strategies utilizing life insurance, Campbell has no regrets about walking away from the sideline.
“The industry I am in has enabled my wife, Nancy, and me to travel the world,” Campbell said. “We have been to so many places and met so many new people and really built a great life together because of that decision. We get to spend a lot of time together because I own my own business and set my own schedule. All the positive things that have happened in our lives for the last 25 years have more than made up for what I missed in football.”
Prior to joining Dye’s staff for his final, fateful season Campbell had worked for Coach Bobby Wallace at NCAA Division II powerhouse University of North Alabama for four years. Campbell originally signed on as the Lions’ wide receivers and tight ends coach, then quickly progressed to quarterback coach and then offensive coordinator. But Dye offered him a dream come true before the 1992 season, and he took it.
When the dream was shattered, Campbell said it really wasn’t hard for him to move on down the road.
“I took a long time to get to Auburn, which was one of the goals I had,” Campbell said. “Unfortunately, shortly after I got there, Coach Dye resigned, and I just decided I didn’t want to move again and probably have to go to a lower division, almost like starting over. I had been married for five years. We got married the year I started coaching, and Nancy and I never got to spend any time together, and I didn’t like that. I made the decision to get out of coaching, and I have really enjoyed it.”
Campbell is best remembered by Auburn fans as the field general of one the most successful squads in school history, the 1983 Tigers of Bo Jackson, Lionel James, Al Del Greco and others that captured the school’s second-ever Southeastern Conference championship and its first since 1957. That team finished 11-1, was named national champs by The New York Times in a computerized poll at least partially based on strength of schedule, and was voted No. 3 in both the Associated Press and United Press International polls.
Over two seasons as a starter, Campbell directed the Tigers’ vaunted wishbone attack to a combined 20-4 record and to some of its most memorable milestones—victories that are revisited with pride to this day by Auburn faithful.
Two that come quickly to mind for Campbell are the 23-22 Iron Bowl win over Alabama on Nov. 27, 1982, at Legion Field and a 13-7 win over previously undefeated Georgia in Athens on Nov. 12, 1983.
“Before we beat Alabama in 1982, Auburn had lost nine straight games to them, and it was Coach Dye’s second year and Coach Bryant’s last year,” Campbell said. “That meant so much to the program and so much to our fans. It was an incredible moment. Coach Dye took us back out on the field after the game. All of our fans were out on the field, and they tore down the goal post. It is hard to describe the emotion of winning that game at that point in time.”
The win over the Bulldogs “between The Hedges” at Sanford Stadium may have meant even more to the program because it secured that elusive second SEC championship. Still, nothing was quite as good as beating Alabama, Campbell said.
“We had to beat an unbeaten Georgia on its field at Athens, and that’s a big, big deal,” Campbell said. “It may have meant more than beating Alabama the year before in the grand scheme of things, but you really can’t say enough about the the emotional part of that Alabama game. Those two moments to me are definitely above all the other things in my career.”
In two seasons as a starter, Campbell completed 159 of 300 passes for 1,934 yards and 14 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He rushed 229 times for 534 yards and eight touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly, he deftly distributed the ball between Bo, “Little Train,” Tommie Agee and others in a way that made the Tiger offense tough to tame in those days.
Campbell and his wife live in the Shoal Creek area of Birmingham, and though they have never had children in 30 years of marriage, they have seven nieces and nephews and a host of children of good friends to which they are close.
Campbell is also still deeply involved at his alma mater. He has previously served on advisory committees for the Auburn athletics department and currently serves on the Auburn University Foundation Board of Directors.
Though Nancy is actually a Georgia grad and a “big Bulldog” as Campbell puts it, she also loves Auburn, and the two have owned a condo there for 10 years. They attend almost all the Tigers’ home football games and are big fans of women’s softball and Bruce Pearl’s men’s basketball program.
“We’re still involved in a pretty big way,” Campbell said. “I will always love Auburn.”
And Auburn will always love him. H&A
All photos courtesy Auburn Athletics