Spartan GRR....Bronco Amp Campbell is Still Impacting the Spartan and Now Bronco Nation
Itâ€™s hard for Amp Campbell to cloak his loyalty.
He recently watched tapes of old Michigan State games, and couldnâ€™t contain his excitement when he saw a Spartan make a great play on the ball.
Now as the Western Michigan Broncosâ€™ secondary coach, Campbell will be forced to side with his new team. The Broncos and Spartans open their seasons against each other Sept. 4 â€” Campbellâ€™s 35th birthday.
â€œItâ€™s kind of funny,â€ laughed Campbell when asked by Spartan Nation Radio if his players harass him about being a Spartan. â€œThese guys kind of mess with me â€” (they ask) â€™Who am I going to be rooting for on the fourth?' I tell them, â€˜Hey, my loyalty is here.â€™â€
But at heart, Campbell will always be green and white on the inside.
â€œI just want to see (the Spartans) be successful down the road,â€ Campbell said.
Campbell said it will be an awkward moment when he runs out of the tunnel at Spartan Stadium wearing black and gold, instead of his true colors.
â€œIt will be,â€ he said. â€œIt definitely will be. After being there for five years, and the only thing that you knew was Michigan State â€” playing there, and having a great career there, and now going back, and coaching against my alma mater â€” itâ€™s going to be a weird feeling. Iâ€™m glad I get the opportunity to come back there.â€
In September of 1998, Campbell broke his neck when he tackled Oregon fullback Chris Young head-on. The hit rendered Campbell motionless, except for his legs, for what seemed to be an eternity.
Spartan athletic trainers rushed to Campbell's aid.Â They worked frantically to help him regain his bearings, andÂ made the choice to have Campbell transported to a local emergency room. There was a chance he wouldn't play football again.
During his recovery, Campbell thought about his future with the Spartans. It would have been easy to give up, but giving up never crossed his mind.
â€œI felt like â€˜Hey, let me give this thing a try,'" Campbell said about his return. "Everyone was telling me I couldnâ€™t do it again."
â€œIâ€™ve always been a fighter, regardless of what the situation was. I remember it like it was yesterday. When I was up there in the hospital, they asked me â€˜Amp, what do you want to do? Do you want to fly back to Sarasota, or would you like to fly back to East Lansing?â€™ I said Iâ€™d like to fly back to East Lansing and finish up my degree.â€
Campbell lobbied then-head coach Nick Saban to petition the NCAA to grant him a sixth year of eligibility.
â€œHe told me â€˜Iâ€™ll definitely do it, Amp,â€™â€ said Campbell. â€œâ€™Iâ€™ll do anything I can. You just have to do one thing for me and thatâ€™s graduate.â€™â€
Campbell was awarded his sixth year, and he graduated. That August, he earned a degree in telecommunications, just prior to his triumphant return on the football field â€”Â head-to-head with the same team he nearly ended his career against.
In 1999 against Oregon, Campbell recovered a fumble, and took it back 85 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Michigan State defeated the Ducks 24-17 before a frenzied and electric East Lansing crowd, in a fabled moment that was destined to be.
The play has been ranked as the fifth all-time greatest by Spartan Football All Access Fansâ€™ Top 10.
Campbell wasnâ€™t just a great athlete while at Michigan State. He was a great leader and giver.
He recalled instances where he had to use his position to sway the attitudes of younger players, and made sure they didnâ€™t walk a troublesome path. He remembered what it was like to be a college athlete, and said he encourages his young men to make the right decisions.
â€œIf you were bringing negative publicity to the program, I stepped up and said something about it,â€ Campbell said. â€œItâ€™s a blessing for you to be here, and a blessing to be on this football team.
Weâ€™re not going to put up with it, regardless of who you are. I always made sure, weâ€™re not going to drink â€” weâ€™re not going to party and hang out. Weâ€™re going to focus on the task at hand.â€
Being focused led the Spartans to one of their best seasons on record. Michigan State defeated Steve Spurrierâ€™s Florida Gators 37-34 in the 2000 Citrus Bowl and finished 10-2.
Campbell spent time coaching at Ferris State, Urbana University (Ohio), and was part of Michigan Stateâ€™s Player Development before he signed with the Broncos in January. He said he enjoys every minute of his new life in Kalamazoo.
â€œI wake up every day with a smile on my face, happy to come to work,â€ Campbell said. â€œI can sit here â€” I can be here all day. I can put in 17-18 hours, then wake back up at 5 oâ€™clock in the morning, come back in at 5:30 and not be tired. Right now, Iâ€™m on cloud nine. Iâ€™m enjoying myself, and I just want to be successful.â€