Curtis Campbell Roanoke College photo
Four months after the announcement that Roanoke College would be restoring football after a 75-year absence, the Maroons have taken another step that could speed up the process. That was clear Monday night at a meeting of the Roanoke Valley Sports Club, where the featured speaker was new Roanoke College athletic director Curtis Campbell.
Campbell succeeds Scott Allison, a former Roanoke lacrosse standout who had held the position for 36 years before retiring. Campbell, who grew up in Pulaski County, comes to Roanoke College after serving as athletic director at Morehouse College in Atlanta following stops at Western Oregon, as well at two Alabama colleges, Tuskegee and Stillman.
“I grew up in a modest environment; they had everything I needed,” Campbell said of his upbringing. “I worked in middle school and high school. I had part-time jobs I had to take care of buying my own school clothes. I bought my high school annual. I bought my class ring.” He played basketball and ran track but admits he didn’t have a great attitude.
“I look back on it and that’s one of the things I regret,” Campbell said this week. “I should have stuck it out.” The summer before his senior year at Pulaski, Campbell joined the army and was headed to Korea as a military policeman. “Lo and behold, they changed my orders and I was going to Fort Bragg and went to jump school,” Campbell said. “Jumping was one of the funniest things that I ever did and also one of the scariest.”
His history also includes a traffic accident that limited his mobility and he proceeded to attend New River Community College on crutches. “It ended up turning into something positive because at the time, I was waiting to get out of the house and have something to do,” he said. “Pretty much for two years at New River, I was in casts or on crutches.” He considers it a blessing that he was able to transfer to Longwood College, where he received a degree in social work.
“Had I not been in that car accident, I’m not sure that would have happened,” he said. Along the way, he became an assistant manager for a Macado’s in Boone, N.C. Back home, Campbell’s mother passed away unexpectedly in Pulaski and his dad had terminal cancer. “At the time, I was the only one of the siblings who wasn’t married or didn’t have kids,” Campbell said this week. “I moved home to take care of my dad, so he wouldn’t have to go to a nursing home.”
Campbell was working in the Pulaski County YMCA and working in the weight room, where he ended up meeting his future wife.
“Things happen for a reason,” he said. “My dad lived for another nine months. I’m so glad that I did it.” When Campbell went to college, he started at 23. By the time he went to Longwood, he was 25, and he graduated when he was 27.
“I really enjoyed being on a college campus,” he said, “and I did internships at Radford University and at Virginia Tech. The whole time, I was still figuring out resumes for athletic jobs.” Campbell has enjoyed a 23 year career in athletics throughout the country “and now I’m back home,” he said to the crowd at the Salem Civic Center. “I sort of came full circle.”
He didn’t know what kind of chance he had, telling his wife, “They’re going to have a bunch of people. Every job like this has 50 to 75 people. Lo and behold, I was lucky enough to be selected.” “It’s one of the greatest experiences that I’ve had. Roanoke College has been one of the most welcoming institutions that I’ve ever come to. It’s the faculty, it’s the staff, it’s the students.”
Roanoke has 23 sports “and that’s a lot,” he shared to fans and alumni at the civic center. Kim Blair advised the crowd that there have been 547 student athletes over the past year. “We’ve heard that Virginia Tech has 620,” Campbell said. “And, so, we’re right there.”
He was captivated upon hearing in the summer that Roanoke College would be adding football.
“I really wanted to be a part of that,” he said. “I managed football everywhere that I’ve been. In my interview with [Frank] Shushock, how often do you get to do something for the first time.” “Especially as you get a little older and think you’ve done everything, Now I get to something that I’ve never done before. It’s exciting and it’s sort of scary, too, at the same time.”
“We advertised for a head coach and had over 100 applicants,” he said. “Our finalists are all working coaches. They all have jobs currently at other institutions. We won’t be able to inform the public until their season is complete.” That will be a big story in itself.