By Jeff Darlington | Published Oct. 28, 2015
The pickup truck with a fifth-wheel hitch and a 40-foot trailer rolled into a college town five years ago, a solo driver behind the wheel on a road trip in search of his life's next phase. Dan Campbell was now three hours from his family and his home.
He'd driven there on a bit of a whim, the result of a quick phone call with Mike Sherman, then the head coach at Texas A&M, Campbell's alma mater.
"Coach, would you mind if I came down there, maybe watched how you guys work and got a taste of what you do?" Campbell recalls asking Sherman in the spring of 2010.
Sherman obliged. And so, just months after Campbell told his wife he wasn't interested in becoming a coach, the badass dude with a cheek full of chaw strolled into College Station, Texas, embarking on a ride that would lead him down one wild road.
"I just parked it down there at an RV park a couple of miles from campus, and that's where I stayed," Campbell said during an interview this week with NFL.com. "So I'd unhook my truck, drive to practice, then back to the trailer for some sleep."
Every story you hear about Campbell is like this. The Miami Dolphins' interim head coach is a cross between an everyman and a superhero. Each time somebody tells you he's just one of the guys, that testimony invariably precedes a story that validates his fast-growing legend.
If Bill Belichick is General Patton, then Dan Campbell is William Wallace.
"I would run through anything for Coach Campbell," linebacker Chris McCain said this week. "A brick wall. A cement wall. Anything."
You think this is media-driven hype? You think, as the Dolphins prepare to play the Patriots in a suddenly interesting game on "Thursday Night Football," the public is unjustifiably turning Campbell into something he is not?
That's fine. Just don't tell his players.
Once Campbell became the interim coach, center Mike Pouncey and several teammates decided to do a little more digging on him. They wanted to learn more about a man they knew mostly as a cool, passionate assistant coach. So they took to Google.
"When you're trying to figure out your head coach, you want to know everything about him," Pouncey said. "So we're watching videos of his playing days, and this guy was an animal. Big as hell. Long hair. Yeah, we've learned a lot about Campbell recently.
"The more you learn ... the more you love him."
Former Dolphins guard Richie Incognito calls Campbell "My dude." Ex-Miami tight end Anthony Fasano says Campbell is the ultimate "guy's guy." Former coach Tony Sparano, who gave Campbell his first NFL coaching job, said he's "always loved the guy for his toughness and love for football."
Everyone who spent time around Campbell as a player remembers, despite the fact that he played tight end, how he wanted to be treated more like an offensive lineman. He was a gritty guy who loved to block. He didn't care about his own stats -- only wins and losses.
So when Campbell phoned Sparano after three weeks at Texas A&M's spring practices, the then-Dolphins head coach brought Campbell onto his staff as an assistant coach. "And I never let him go home," Sparano said Wednesday. "I guess that was a good decision."