Much has been made about the odd connection between the Oregon football program and the state of Texas. Four running backs from the Lone Star State have signed with the Ducks since 2008.
Even more has been made about the NCAA investigation that Oregon is facing due to its dealings with outside influences in the state. The Ducks have acknowledged the recruiting tactics in question, but the often overlooked angle in the Oregon-Texas connection is Ducks' running backs coach Gary Campbell.
Campbell is a native of Ennis, Texas, which sits along Interstate 45 between fertile recruiting grounds Dallas and Houston.
He became an assistant coach for the Ducks in 1983, when the Ducks were among the nation's worst teams. "Coach Cam," knows all about Texas high school football and how hard it can be when representing a far-away school like Oregon.
As the Ducks have been gradually building their program over the past two decades, Campbell has been able to gain some traction in his home state. The success Campbell has had in leading the Oregon backs speaks for itself.
Since 1994 Campbell has helped develop and guide each of the Ducks' starting running backs to some level of professional football. In that time, seven Oregon running backs have been selected in the NFL draft.
Now in his 30th season at Oregon, Campbell can also point to Ducks recent surge as a juggernaut in the run game. The Ducks have led the Pac-10/12 in rushing every season since 2007.
The Ducks have signed highly touted Texas running backs Lache Seastrunk (Temple), Tra Carson (Texarkana) and Dontae Williams (Houston), only to see them transfer after one year with the Ducks. The one Texas running back that stuck around turned in the greatest career in Oregon football history.
None of it would have happened if not for "Coach Cam."
Campbell had seen something special in LaMichael James and convinced him to leave Texas and head to the Northwest.
There were some expectations for James when he signed with the Ducks, but nothing that suggestted that he would have a legendary career. If not for Campbell, James' Oregon career would have been over before it started.
James was homesick and had his bags packed, ready to leave Oregon and head home to Texas to enroll at TCU. Due to his relationship with Campbell, James was talked off the ledge and decided to stick around. From that moment on, Campbell became a father figure to James, something he had never had before.
When current Oregon running back commit Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) spurned the likes of Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Baylor, LSU and many more, it was due in large part to his relationship with Campbell.
"Coach 'Cam' is like one of my best friends. I talk to him all the time. Not just about football either. He wants to know how everything in my life is," said Wilson, the No. 51 player in the ESPN 150. "He has a way about him that makes you want to do everything you can to make him proud."
In addition to their relationship, Wilson, the No. 7 player in the state of Texas, looked to someone he is often compared to for advice. Instead of football, James and Wilson talked about one thing, Gary Campbell.
"I reached out to LaMichael [James] on twitter because I wanted to know how he dealt with going from Texas to Oregon," Wilson said. "What he told me was that I just have to stick to it and stay focused on school and football. He said it's different than where we're from, but Coach Campbell will be there for me if I ever need anything."
With the recent track record of Texas running backs leaving the program, Campbell will do everything he can to make sure Wilson is comfortable in Eugene and ready to take on the expectations that are already being placed upon him as the 'next LaMichael James.'
Like Wilson, four-star running back Thomas Tyner (Aloha, Ore./Aloha) also credits Campbell for helping the Ducks land two of the country's top running backs in the class of 2013.
"Coach 'Cam' is a great person. He's a man of strong faith and he makes you want to be a great person on and off the field," said Tyner, the No. 104 player in the ESPN 150. "My relationship with him is one of main reasons I shut down my recruitment so early. I knew I wanted to play for him."