John Campbell, Steelers Linebacker, 1965-1969
First, can you let readers know what you have been doing with yourself since football and about your work as a Christian motivational speaker, Minister and police chaplain?
I have been very busy as I am presently the lead Chaplain for the city of Burnsville and Bloomington Police Departments. I have been a police Chaplain for eight years and have been an associate pastor at a Bloomington church for the past fifteen years. Before that I worked for our National Denomination (Church of God – Cleveland, Tenn) as a speaker for the Dept of Lay Ministries. I served in that capacity for twenty-two years.
How much did you religious beliefs/faith affect you as a player – and how? Were these beliefs as strong for you then as they are now?
Unfortunately, all this positive effort came after my football career, so if my teammates have a little difficulty taking all this in, I understand as I would not have been a likely candidate for the Lord’s work during my days in Pittsburgh.
To say that my goals and ambitions in life were a little less than heavenly focused, is a true assessment.
You came to Pittsburgh in 1965 after playing for two years in Minnesota. What brought you to Pittsburgh and how difficult was it playing for a team that was struggling so much at the time?
I was traded from the Minnesota Vikings to the Baltimore Colts In 1965, and in the exhibition season, because of an injury to the starting center of the Colts, I was traded to the Steelers as they had two veteran centers and were in need of linebackers. Well I should say that linebackers were one of several needs.
So I came to the Steelers from the NFL Champion Colts. (Not excited about that turn of events). I played for the Steelers for five years and served as their player representative for four of my five years, which I considered an honor as I had grown to love Pittsburgh and my teammates in record time (two or three games).
Mike Nixon was the coach when you first arrived and Bill Austin took over for him in 1966. How was Coach Nixon to play for and what how did Coach Austin differ from Nixon in terms of coaching styles and ability? Any examples?
In my first twelve months as a Steeler I played for three head coaches; Buddy Parker, Mike Nixon, and Bill Austin. So I guess that head coach was also one of the needs. That need was met when Church Noll became the head coach and informed us that the reason we were not winning was not lack of effort ,but lack of talent and he would be working to remedy that challenge.
Another coaching change for you in ’69, when Coach Noll came on board. How did you and the team adjust to so many changes in the coaching staffs?
I was delighted as I assumed he was referring to the offensive side of the ball. Halfway through Noll’s first season he informed me that I was not going to figure in their Championship plans, and I went back to Baltimore for one season and quietly left the game after that one season with the Colts.
Who were some of the biggest characters on those Steelers teams, and what made them so. Any examples?
To talk about the characters that I had the privilege to meet, would take more time and print space that I’m allowed. Suffice it to say that whatever you’ve heard about the 65-69 Steelers , no matter how outrageous, is probably true.
I would not trade my experience with Pittsburgh for anything.
What do you think of the new NFL rules on hitting players and stressing the pass? How would that have affected you as a player?
Today’s game summary –Maybe too much money – - too many flags – - too little character (the right kind)- -too much showboating- – too many commercials.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Thanks for letting me share – -God Bless the Pittsburgh Steelers! – - #53 John Campbell