Coaching young athletes and counseling drug abusers gets Dan Campbell out of bed each morning and puts a spring in his step — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

When it comes to young peoples’ welfare or coaching dedicated athletes, the 65-year old coach just can’t say no.

When he is not walking around with a whistle and clipboard, Campbell holds a substance abuse license and continues to counsel young people who are trying overcome an addiction.

“I was given a gift, and for me to keep that passion, I have to continue to do it,” Campbell said.

And he does both well.

That’s why the University of Maine at Farmington hired Campbell, a UMF graduate himself, to coach the Beavers’ men’s and women’s outdoor track and cross-country teams last March.


Campbell had been offered college coaching jobs before at the University of Southern Maine and at Northern Michigan University, but he turned the offers down because of “wrong timing.”

“A real good friend of mine knocked on my door. I was on the phone with the athletic director at that time negotiating,” Campbell said. “Got a knock on my door, opened it up and it was a friend of mine. She said, ‘Are you going to be here for my son?’ I said, ‘Why?’ She says, “Because I have Stage 4 Hodgkins.’

“I said, ‘Yeah, I am going to here for your son.’ So right then and there, I said it was nice talking with you. Take me out of the pool (of job candidates at Northern Michigan).”

For the next several years, coaching at the college level remained a dream for Campbell, but he continued to thrive as a coach at Edward Little High School, guiding various teams to 14 state championships.

“I resigned from EL in 2010, but I continued to coach because I just loved the kids, the community at large, and what it has given me as a coach,” Campbell said. “I planned on retiring.”

Fat chance.


When UMF went looking for a track coach, Campbell put his hat in the ring, and after several interviews, Campbell was back behind the wheel after his wife convinced him to take the job.

“I knew I was in the right place. God opened those doors for me and I walked through it,” Campbell said.

He also walked into pile of paperwork — and the challenge of recruiting athletes for a small school.

“The kids are the same. They either have a passion for it or they are there for many different reasons, and all the reasons are basically the same,” Campbell explained. “As far as the actual coaching, that hasn’t changed except that the academics are much more serious. It is called student athlete, not athlete student, and that piece I try to emphasize so these kids are students first. They are athletes second.

“There is a lot things in between a student and athlete. We talk about family. We talk about church. We talk about where our social life fits in and how to balance all that.

“These kids have a lot more freedom up here so they have a lot more freedom to choke themselves — or they have lot more freedom to better themselves. Our jobs as coaches is to get them to make the right choices. I think the big thing is we all have free choices, but what we don’t have is the consequences of those choices.”


And he is up to his ears in administrative tasks, which came with the job.

“There is a lot of paperwork,” Campbell said. “A lot of administrative stuff. A lot of NCAA stuff. I feel well supported out here. I am extremely supported.”

You don’t have to tell Campbell that recruiting can be a tough sell for top-tier athletes who are eyeing Division I schools and scholarship money.

“When you come here, it is something you want to be part of, but not something that you are,” Campbell said. “Trying to get that first-tier kid to come here is going to be difficult. I do want to make kids come here for academics. I also do want to make this a place when they do come here, and don’t look at it like, ‘What do you mean run cross country?’

“I will go after that second tier kid, because you give me a year or two, he is going to be a top tier kid.”

Campbell’s passion has a habit of rubbing off on his athletes.

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