Inspiration can often be hard to come by, but when it comes to Iowa State University head football coach Matt Campbell, inspiration comes as easy as breathing.
That's the type of feeling experienced by various police officers around the Des Moines metro area on Monday, April 22 at the Lutheran Church of Hope in Waukee. It was there that coach Campbell talked about how he viewed leadership and how he has utilized leadership during his entire coaching tenure.
Born from two parents who were shining examples of leadership themselves, Campbell started things off by talking about his roots in the leadership field.
“Both of my parents were heavily involved in the community and both valued the impact one can have on the people around them,” began Campbell. “My dad was a high school administrator and 20-year head football coach at our high school and my mom ran our community center and is now at Mercy Hospital as their lead fundraiser.”
Rooted in leadership, Campbell went on to be both a graduate assistant and assistant coach at Bowling Green University (2003-04 & 2007-08) and then offensive coordinator for Mount Union University (2005-06). His leadership style turned a lot of heads and landed Campbell an offensive coordinator job for then Mount Union College before becoming the run game coordinator and later offensive coordinator at Toledo (2009-11). From there, Campbell would go on to be head coach at Toledo from 2012-2015 before entering his current position as head coach for Iowa State University.
Campbell's leadership that started young flourished ever since he hit the coaching ranks and ever since his tenure at Iowa State started, the Cyclone football team has grown leaps and bounds. Coach Campbell credits the success to three pillars in recruiting retention, and development.
“I remember being on a plane one day heading back to Toledo and I remember thinking that without a strong foundation, no program can last,” started coach Campbell. “I then wrote down three big things on a piece of paper and it's a piece of paper I still have to this day, and it said recruit, retain, and develop. If we're going to have something that can stand the test of time, no matter what school we're at, those three pillars need to be the bedrock of what the program is built on. Those three pillars are what we have brought to Iowa State and have built this program off of.”
Campbell went on to describe the three pillars starting with recruiting, something that he himself has been excellent at ever since he stepped into the coaching ranks and it showed. In 2011, Campbell was named top recruiter by Rivals.com and his first ever four recruiting classes at Iowa State still rank among the best in school history. When talking about recruiting, Campbell spoke about a universal aspect to recruiting that is shared across all platforms from football to law enforcement.
“True recruiting is surrounding yourself with great people,” began Campbell. “Whether I as a head coach bring in a player to the team or an academic tutor to touch our players lives. That can be said across all platforms including law enforcement. If you surround yourself with people of great character, great passion, who have the willingness to be a life-long learner, then your program or business will have sustainable successful pieces for years to come.”
It's all about the right cultural fit for coach Campbell, which goes a long way into the second pillar, retain.
“Having a strong culture is pretty big and the more you have the same consistency and alignment, the better you can be,” said Campbell. “Retention for me goes along the lines of faith, family, and community. Not just obtaining a successful culture but growing it which as been something we've prided ourselves on here at Iowa State.”
With those two pillars alone, coach Campbell has made waves all across the collegiate athletic landscape, which included a top three mark in the nation across a four year span of retaining players through their entire four year collegiate career.
Then coach Campbell finished by talking about the third pillar in development. Campbell's passion for improving the lives of those around him has been a mainstay ever since he hit the coaching ranks, and from that success has followed. Campbell spoke about how development has more than one side, and that it's important to develop on many different levels.
“It's important if we as coaches want to truly develop these student-athletes to develop them in more ways than just athletically,” started Campbell. “At the end of each spring practice session I sit down with ever player to see where are they culturally, where are their shortcomings, and what can we as a group do to improve their lives both in and out of football. Our kids know exactly where they're at and then it's our job as coaches and leaders to give these athletes a road map to become the best version of themselves as possible.”
Coach Campbell was welcomed with open arms and given a resounding applause as he departed. Coach Campbell will be back at Iowa State for his fourth season as the Cyclone's head football coach for the 2019 season.