ARLINGTON, Texas — Iowa State’s Matt Campbell is one of the hottest names in coaching, and he’ll go up against one of his former teammates in the Big 12 this fall.
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and Campbell played together at Division III Mount Union in college. Campbell led one of the biggest upsets in college football in 2017, when his Cyclones beat OU in Norman.
Campbell spoke with The Transcript and other media Tuesday at Big 12 media days:
Question: What do you remember about getting to know Alex Grinch at Mount Union?
Matt Campbell: So, Alex and I are the same age, but Alex was a year ahead of me in terms of eligibility. You know, I think Alex and I have had a great relationship as players and had a great relationship professionally. Alex was an unbelievable student of the game. He was a guy that was always in the right place at the right time, had a great secondary coach who’s still coaching the secondary at Mount Union. A great guy in terms of preparation, very analytical and ahead of his time. And I think Alex was always a version of him on the football field. The reality of it is, nothing surprises me about what Alex has done.
Q: What is it about Alex that lets you know he’ll succeed at OU?
Campbell: Well, you know No. 1 is Alex has been ultra successful with certainly, maybe not the elite player. And I think that’s one thing about Alex, you go and see what he did at Washington State, you see his growth to get to that point at Washington State and what he did there was second to none. Probably getting more, at least, knowledgeable experience at Ohio State not being the [head] coordinator and seeing how an elite program like an Oklahoma works. I think that was probably really valuable. So now you get that experience with that unbelievable leadership, and I think what Oklahoma’s getting is one of the best coaches in college football today in Alex. He’s a great mindset. I think he’s a great football mind, and on top of that a great teacher. I think it’s a huge get for Oklahoma football.
Q: Iowa State was picked third in the preseason, and expectations are really high. How are things different since you guys are being viewed this way?
Campbell: Well, I think that's a really good question. I will say this about the expectation, first and foremost, I don't mean this to be negative in any stretch of the imagination, but if we worried about what the expectations of our football program were outside of our walls, the first three years, I think we would have crumbled really fast. So what we've been able to do is handle our own expectations and making our own expectations way loftier than anything that could be said outside of our walls.
But I think it's a powerful question that you ask. I think one of the greatest things that's been known when I first got to Iowa State all of the questions were what color uniforms are you wearing, what's your entrance song, people cared about stuff that really doesn't matter, and now we're talking about a football team, we're asking football questions and we're concerned
Q: Your name is thrown around last year or so for NFL head coaching jobs a lot. Does the NFL appeal to you?
Campbell: Well, my goal initially wasn't even to be a college head football coach. My goal and dream was to be like my father who was a high school head football coach. I'll be honest with you, I've never put a lot of thought into it. I've always put a lot of thought and effort into, number one, my greatest passion is to develop and help 18-22 year old men go from a young man to a chance to leave as a 22 year old man. That's one of my great passions of what I get to do every day, and humbled and grateful with the administration and a great athletic director in Jamie Pollard at Iowa State that they have done such a great job with our coaching staff and continuing to build something special at Iowa State.