One on One with BC Lions Head Coach Rick Campbell

Photo courtesy of BC Lions

A native of Spokane, Washington Rick Campbell attended Washington State University where he majored in education. He continued with that pursuit at the University of Oregon where he was also a graduate assistant for the football team. While Rick has a rich history himself in the CFL, his dad Hugh had a legendary career in the CFL. As a player, Hugh played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders before coaching the then Edmonton Eskimos to five straight Grey Cups.

Rick has also spent time with Edmonton during two different stints. From 1999-2004, Rick was the Special Teams Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach. Then from 2005-2008, he took on the sole role of Defensive Coordinator. After his first stint with Edmonton, he left for the 2009 season to be the Special Teams Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In 2010 it was off to the Calgary Stampeders to be the Running Backs Coach. He would then return to Edmonton for the 2011 season as the Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator. For 2012 and 2013 he returned to the Stampeders as the Defensive Coordinator. He then got his first head coaching job in the inaugural season of the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks. With Ottawa, Rick was finally able to join his dad in winning a Grey Cup during the 2016 season.

Unfortunately, Campbell didn’t get to have his first season with the Lions in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, he’s looking forward to getting things going here in 2021. He’s not the only Washington native on the coaching staff either. Defensive Backs Coach Ryan Phillips hails from Seattle, Washington and graduated from Eastern Washington University.

A look at the CFL

While the CFL is different from NCAA and NFL rules, Campbell touched on why people should still follow the league.

“It’s wide open, exciting football, so as you can imagine having three downs instead of four obviously encourages a lot more passing so you got to get bigger chunks of yards so it’s harder to just run the ball for three yards and then line up and do it again,” Campbell said. “It’s wide open, it’s exciting, I think the strength of it is that it’s not the NFL.”

Campbell likes the NFL, but for him, he likes that it’s something different and not what he calls a carbon copy. He emphasized the large field size with a lot of open space and amount of passing. Campbell also touched on how the CFL has always had five receivers on the field. He explained that quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes may not have got a chance in the NFL 20 years ago with how things were. However, he said they would’ve been playing up there for sure. Campbell explained that there are guys in the CFL with that type of skillset that are active and are able to move around and make plays.

Campbell’s time with Ottawa

During Campbell’s time with the RedBlacks, he made three trips to the Grey Cup in 2015, 2016 and 2018 including a victory in 2016. Campbell explained that the feeling you have when you win the championship is the reason people go through the whole thing of sports. He touched on how players put themselves through a lot and not just with both their bodies. Campbell said that sometimes players have to be away from their families because they’re playing in a different city. He really touched on how there are a lot of sacrifices that go into it.

“But the whole motivation for all the hard work and all that stuff is the feeling of accomplishment when you win a championship and that’s what we’re all chasing is that feeling, wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Campbell said.

Campbell touched on his time in Ottawa and how creating a team from scratch was something he very much enjoyed.

“I had a great experience in Ottawa, it was one of the best times in my life starting a team from scratch, from nothing,” Campbell said.

Creating a winning culture

Campbell knows what it takes to establish a winning culture both on and off the field in his many stops throughout his time coaching in the CFL. He touched on how you have to value people and create an environment where people are excited to come to work and succeed. He explained how he tries to get players in a position to where they can just do their thing. When he finally takes the field this season with the BC Lions after no season in 2020, he said that’ll be no different there.

“I think what you got to do in sports is one, you have to have talent so you have to get good players and then also I think it’s also building a culture where you are, a positive environment where people can bring their strengths to the table and I think that’s always the key to it.”

He emphasized the positive environment aspect saying how you need to treat people well and not only look for talent, but solid people also. Campbell explained to compete at the CFL you have to possess a pretty good level of talent. However, one point he brought up is looking for what makes a guy tick when it comes to why a guy plays, his motivations and how he competes. He also believes in having people with solid character because of how competitive and hard sports can be with a lot of tough moments.

“You go through good moments and you go through tough moments where you lose a couple games, that’s where you find out about people, how they are, how they deal with adversity and how resilient they are and those things, so we definitely want to find people with those qualities,” Campbell said.

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