Today, Lincoln County Red Devils coach Larry Campbell says goodbye to the school he's called home for forty-two years. Campbell retires with a record that will long be admired, as he's recorded 477 wins, eleven GHSA state titles, thirty-three region championships, a .847 overall winning percentage and ranked the third all-time winningest high school football coach.
Those are just some of the incredible numbers that pop up when you talk about this tenured head football coach. On Friday, he decided to hang up his whistle and ride off into the sunset. I talked with him about all the wins, the few losses, the great memories, the tough moments and most importantly, all the kids that he has coached and influenced over the decades.
His reasons for retiring are personal.
"Forty-four years of doing the same thing...I am 65 years old. My parents are in declining health and I want to watch my grandchildren grow up. It’s just time for someone else to take the reins,” Campbell explained.
He talked about his wife, Connie, with high praise.
"My wife missed maybe three games in my entire career. She was a true coach’s wife,” Campbell added.
Quite possibly his most talented player, former Red Devil and Georgia Bulldog running back, Garrison Hearst, made it to Friday's announcement in Lincolnton.
Coach Campbell told me about players that maybe only he remembers, kids to whom he taught a lot more than just X’s and O’s...kids that didn’t have the greatest home situation or that got in trouble with the law. He loved them all and taught them the right way to do things. Through all the lessons he gave, he constantly conveyed the fact that he truly cared.
Campbell says that despite the 477 wins and eleven state championships, he doesn’t have a favorite on-the-field moment. He simply loved the sport and its challenges. He loved coaching all the same, whether in practice or to Friday night crowds.
When you talk about a man’s legacy, it can mean many things. This dedicated coach told me that while many thought he'd coach for a few more years chasing 500 Ws, he didn’t coach for wins; his goals were different.
“I did not coach for numbers,” Campbell said.
He wanted to impact young people’s lives in a positive way. And in that vein, I say, mission accomplished...well done.
And one more thing, Coach Campbell, on behalf of all of us who watched your teams play over the years, thank you……thank you very much.