Kudos for the preacher
The gospel of Texas Football according to Dave Campbell
Every religion needs a preacher.
No one has testified for Texas high school football like Dave Campbell. In fact, he wrote the Bible.
Campbell is the father of Texas Football, the magazine that for more than half a century has covered the sport like no one else.
Saturday, the congregation Campbell has amassed over those 50 years gathered at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum to honor his contributions.
Those contributions are so recognized, names pretty recognizable themselves made the trek to the event. Included were former Texas high school phenom and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Ty Detmer, Texas Tech coaching icon Spike Dykes and Texas A&M’s winningest coach, R.C. Slocum. Just to complete the Holy Trinity of Texas college coaching, University of Texas legend Darrell Royal was in the audience.
Emcee Ron Franklin of ESPN broadcasting renown described Campbell’s annual magazine as “the Bible of Texas football.” Franklin said Campbell “took one of our most cherished possessions in the state, high school football, and wrote about it.”
Slocum knows the magazine from a coach’s and high school player’s perspective. Growing up in Orange, Tex., in Southeast Texas, Slocum said Texas Football showed people who seldom left their base neighborhoods what the rest of Texas was like. And could be.
“Football gave us hope and gave us a chance,” Slocum said. “It gave a lot of us an ambition we may not have had.”
Dykes said he saw the power of the magazine while coaching in Eastland, Tex., a spot on Interstate 20 in West Texas. Dykes said no one outside the country town paid attention to the tiny, losing team. But Texas Football was so comprehensive, there was a mention of Eastland in print.
“We weren’t worth a dime,” Dykes said. “We were contenders for the state championship if you heard the people talk. There’s 1,040 schools that play football in this state. There’s 1,040 schools in that stupid magazine.”
Detmer said it was a thrill for a high school player to see his name in print in a statewide publication, even if it was to only note he was a returning starter. He said he marveled at what it most have taken when the magazine started in 1960 to just get the work done.
“I’m sure it wasn’t that easy in the 1960s to get into your car with a typewriter and just going,” Detmer said.
Campbell said it wasn’t easy in many ways.
“When we got to the end after that first issue and added up the numbers, I found I had lost $5,000,” Campbell said. “The next, we just lost $3,000.”
But he kept plugging away. Campbell noted several stories that he treasures because the magazine put him in places to experience special things.
He said he and his wife Reba were at a coaches meeting in Arkansas. Reba visited the resort’s gift shop and could hear someone singing behind a display, but not see the performer.
“After umpteen verses of ‘Bringing in the Sheaves,’ curiosity got the best of her,” Campbell said. “It was Bear Bryant.”
Campbell said he and Reba encountered Royal once and he told them to drop by his cabin because “Willie’s pickin. We didn’t know who Willie was, but Willie Nelson was sitting there playing. We saw the sun come up.”
Campbell was there too in 1976 when Royal had just coached his last game. It was much like any post-game in the 1970s when the coach and writers gathered at Room 2001 at the Villa Capri motel on I-35. But considering this would be his last gathering, Campbell said Royal waxed philosophic about much more than football that night.
“I think I wrote my best column,” Campbell said.
Now in his 80s, Campbell said his time with Texas Football is much less active, writing the Editor’s Note, doing some promotion and signing a few copies for the Dallas group that now owns it, IMG.
“They do a good job,” he said.