Coaching career nearing its end for Greenwood’s Campbell

When Mike Campbell walked out of Greenwood’s locker room coming out of halftime, he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was a former Woodman who had played for Campbell a decade and a half ago.

Having heard that Campbell was retiring at season’s end, he drove all the way down from Gary just to catch up with his former coach for the briefest of moments.

That’s when you know you made a difference in someone’s life.

“I’m not the jerk when they’re 25 that I was when they were 17,” Campbell said. “They get it now.”

Tonight’s game at Whiteland will be the final regular-season game in a football coaching career that’s lasted nearly three decades. Campbell has been wearing a headset on the Greenwood sideline for 26 of his 29 seasons, the last 17 of those as the Woodmen’s head coach.

Having taken the reins as the school’s athletic director back in August, Campbell is ready to settle into that role exclusively — but he’s only just now starting to feel the finality of moving on from something he’s done his entire adult life.

“It’s becoming more real, knowing that the end is near,” he said. “It’s like being on a street corner in New York City, the guys holding the sign. But like I told the kids and parents, I’m not leaving Greenwood.”

A fitting finale

It seems rather appropriate that Campbell’s regular-season swan song will be against Darrin Fisher, who arrived at Whiteland one year before Campbell took the head coaching reins at Greenwood. As they’ve competed as county and conference rivals for the better part of this century, they’ve also become tight on a personal level.

That bond, obviously, sprouted from their mutual passion for football. Fisher recalls a weekend morning years ago when Greenwood and Whiteland were playing one another in a bantam-level game and he and Campbell wound up working it side by side.

“It wasn’t our sons that were playing,” Fisher said. “They didn’t have enough parent volunteers, and it was a youth football game, Whiteland against Greenwood, and we both were there and they didn’t have anybody to run the clock. So he and I sat down and ran the clock together.”

Tonight figures to be special for both of them — before, during and after the game.

“It’s a great rivalry game,” Campbell said. “Darrin has been a great friend on and off the field. I’ve respected how they do things, how they run; obviously he’s had a lot of success. But it’s a no-records game — there’s been games where they haven’t had great records and we’ve been really good, and it’s been a dogfight. … All these kids know each other; they’re all friends on social media, they go to C9 together, all that kind of stuff, so it’s going to be a fun atmosphere.”

And while both coaches are fierce competitors, their friendship won’t be affected by the outcome.

“This is what I love about Mike Campbell,” Fisher said. “He is the same dude whether he wins or you win. And he’s good for kids; everything that that man does is centered around being good for kids, and I respect him so much for that.”

Not alone

Campbell is quick to point out that he’s had as good a support system at home as a coach could possibly have.

His wife, Andi, was Greenwood’s volleyball coach when the two got married; once they decided to have children, she put her own coaching career on hold so that her husband could continue his.

“She’s done so much behind the scenes and sacrificed so much so that I could be a head football coach, so I can do this AD job,” Mike Campbell said. “She’s been awesome. She’s been my biggest supporter.”

Andi has had the chance to get back into the coaching game in recent years; she guides the sixth-grade boys basketball team at the middle school and has helped out some with the varsity volleyball team this fall. She and Mike have also had the chance to see the coaching bug get passed on to their oldest son Collin, who is currently coaching the junior varsity team at Yorktown.

For Mike, getting to see one of his children roaming the sideline this fall has been a different experience.

“It’s neat to hear parents and kids talk to coach Campbell, and when they’re talking to coach Campbell, I’m like, ‘It’s not me,’” he said. “It’s been kind of cool to see him, and now have him as a son but also as a peer in coaching. We have a lot of conversations on, how do we do this, what do I think about here, and it’s been really cool to watch him grow in that end of football.”

Mike and Andi’s middle son, Carter, is a current senior at Greenwood. Having his last season as a coach coincide with his son’s last as a high school player has been a ride Mike Campbell has cherished all the way through.

“It’s been awesome,” he said. “He’s really matured in a lot of ways off the field. He’s a good football player, a good athlete, but just to see the maturation, and how he’s handling himself and becoming a man, has been awesome as a father and a coach to see.”

Carter won’t be the last Campbell to don a Greenwood helmet; the family’s youngest son, Carson, is in sixth grade. He’s long been aware that his dad’s coaching career wasn’t going to extend into the back half of this decade.

“He knew that he probably wasn’t going to play for me,” Mike Campbell said.

Hands off

While he says there are definitely aspects of coaching that he’ll miss — he cited the pregame rituals in the locker room as a biggie — Campbell isn’t going to try holding on to any aspect of the job. His involvement with the football program will be limited to whatever his job as the school’s AD entails.

His door will be open if the next coach has questions or solicits input, but he’s not going to initiate those conversations.

“I’m going to make sure it’s a clear-cut division,” Campbell said. “The new head coach has to put his stamp on this program. I’m not a big ego guy … I’m going to make sure I separate myself.”

How many games Campbell has left remains to be seen. Though the Woodmen have trudged their way to a 1-7 record this fall, with seven consecutive losses, they’ve largely remained competitive against a brutal schedule — heck, their one win came against a Seymour team that recently wrapped up a share of the Hoosier Hills Conference championship.

Factor in Greenwood’s long-standing reputation as a tough postseason out, and there’s no telling when the end might come. Maybe it’ll be in next week’s sectional opener at home against Class 4A No. 8 Martinsville. Maybe it won’t.

Whenever it happens, Campbell is ready for it.

“That Friday, whenever it ends, whichever Friday, I’m at peace with what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m going to be sad, I’m going to be upset, but you get sad and upset at the end of every season just because you realize, a group of seniors, you’re not going to coach them anymore.”

But if you’re doing your job right, those kids will still come back and find you after you graduate.

Campbell’s already proven himself on that front.


Greenwood at Whiteland, 7 p.m. tonight

Cathedral at Center Grove, 7 p.m. tonight

Decatur Central at Franklin, 7 p.m. tonight

Indian Creek at Northview, 7 p.m. tonight

Edinburgh at Park Tudor, 7 p.m. tonight

Roncalli at East Central, 7 p.m. tonight

Heritage Christian JV vs. Greenwood Christian, 10 a.m. Saturday*

(* – at Center Grove MS North)