When Lee and Chad Campbell were throwing some sort of ball around as kids growing up in Hawkinsville, there was naturally competition.
After all, only two years separated the brothers.
“We had some fights,” 46-year-old Chad said. “Just like brothers do.”
Theirs wasn’t the kind of rivalry loaded with such stories. As much as each wanted to better the other one, the Campbell brothers also were teammates of sorts.
“I’m not saying we didn’t argue, typical brother stuff,” said Lee, two years older at 48. “There weren’t any knock-down, drag-outs.
“It was just me and Chad growing up. We did live in a neighborhood ... but then we moved to the country. There wasn’t anybody to play with. We spent a lot of time out in the yard throwing to each other, whether it’s a baseball or a football.”
And they matured as they grew up, both playing quarterback and defensive back at Hawkinsville. Eventually, they also became colleagues, successful coaches who have state championship rings to show, Lee at Hawkinsville and Chad at Peach County.
Now, they’ll go for one together.
The Campbells are now on the same sideline, Lee joining Chad at Peach County last winter after leaving the head coaching job at Crisp County. And this will be the first time they have coached together.
Lee was coaching in an all-star game a few years ago and immediately called Chad to join him, but Chad had recently coached in that game, and there was a time limit regarding when a coach could return to that game.
That was the first real chance the two had to coach, but that changed in the winter.
Lee took over as defensive coordinator, filling the spot vacated by David Shores, who left after one season for the same job at Lowndes. Shores left a little more than a month before Lee resigned as the head coach and athletics director at Crisp County after going 17-24 in four seasons.
That followed a rough three seasons and a 10-20 record at Dodge County. Campbell spent nine seasons at his alma mater, winning at least eight games in seven seasons at Hawkinsville.
The run in Hawkinsville included a sparkling 41-2-1 stretch from 2002 to 2004. The Red Devils won the GHSA Class A title outright in 2003 and shared it with Clinch County in 2004. Chad was an assistant at Peach County when the Trojans lost to LaGrange in the 2003 Class AAA final.
But the younger brother got his own ring six years later as a head coach when the Trojans went 15-0. Chad matched Lee with a second ring two years later. So just from one family, the Peach County staff has four state championship rings and a combined 199-117-1 record. Lee went 85-28 in nine seasons at Hawkinsville, while Chad is 86-16 in eight at Peach County.
As old-school country boys, they don’t talk much about that kind of stuff or about being brothers now coaching together. They’re about coaching football, including everything the job entails, and helping each other. Lee spent 19 years as a head coach and athletics director at four different schools.
“I know how it is with both roles,” he said. “But he does it right, does it fair, does it hard, does it all the right ways.”
Chad is a defensive guy and Lee an offensive guy, so theirs will be a collaborative effort. Lee brings the mind of an offensive strategist to defense, and he’ll bounce ideas off of Chad.
“He knows defense like a dang scientist,” Lee said. “He’s a whole lot of help. Shoot, man, he knows defense.”
They also bring somewhat different personalities to the table.
“He’s more hard than I am,” Lee said. “Now, I’m not soft, but he just takes it to another level. That may be the best way I can say it.”
Chad agrees, saying, “I’m a little bit more high-strung.”
The change does make life a little easier for their mother Judy, who lives in Hawkinsville and now has an easier Friday night with one game to attend and a fairly simple 45-minute drive to Fort Valley. There no doubt will be memories flowing to 30 or so years ago when her sons were out in the yard throwing some sort of ball around, like how the older brother gave the younger brother one of the many football indoctrinations available.
“He gave me my first stinger,” Chad said. “We were doing tackling drills, the ‘eye-opener’ drill, that’s what we used to call it back in the day. I went to tackle him, and he just ran the slap over me.”
Then after the play, helped him up?
“Oh, hell no,” Chad said. “He told me to get up and quit holding my shoulder.”
The Campbell boys won’t be thinking about any of that, although there undoubtedly will be a moment just before kickoff of next week’s season opener against Warner Robins when it hits them. And the moment will be gone for about three hours.
The younger brother is happy to have the older brother on board but for more reasons than just blood.
“I look at it like this more than anything,” Chad said. “More than getting my brother, I get a great football coach. It’s just icing on the cake him being my brother.”