AL HAMNIK: Gary's Campbell following Marc Trestman's lead

2013-03-30T17:00:00Z 2013-04-01T14:40:04Z AL HAMNIK: Gary's Campbell following Marc Trestman's leadAl Hamnik Times Columnist
March 30, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

If Erik Campbell was an assistant for Marc Trestman last season, he might be on the Bears payroll in 2013-14.

"That's true," Campbell said. "I'm a year late."

You know the scenario: Trestman coached the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes, the Bears fired Lovie Smith and then hired Trestman, who in turn brought along most of his staff from up north.

Now it's the Alouettes' turn to rebuild.

"This happened right out of the blue. They called me," said Campbell, recently named wide receivers coach. "It's a great city. Great coaches on staff."

And with much to learn about the Canadian game.

Head man Dan Hawkins has no pro experience, having served as a college analyst for ESPN the last two seasons after coaching stints at Boise State and Colorado.

He's never encountered a language barrier like this. Montreal is bilingual, so pass around the French 101 textbooks. Merci beaucoup.

"I got time. I have to learn it. It's not going to be easy but it's new for all of us," said Campbell, a Gary native. "We came from all over the country and half the team is American, so that will help (the transition).

"You can always stand to learn something new."

Campbell is no novice when it comes to coaching. His impressive resume features stops at Navy, Ball State, Syracuse, Michigan, Iowa and now north of the border.

He's coached running backs, receivers, special teams. Yeah, he'll make your offense get up and go -- and like doing it.

Campbell wants to learn all he can about the eight-team CFL, whose season runs from June until November. There are volumes written on its history, too.

Life in Canada will be more challenging than traumatic.

"Right now, it's 45 degrees. In June, it'll be in the 80s and 90s," Campbell said. "We play outdoors. If it gets cold, you can always wear a coat.

"I grew up in Gary, remember?"

The Alouettes are one of the CFL's most productive franchises, thanks to the job Trestman did there.

Dan Hawkins, its new guy, is determined to keep that trend alive, signing former Indianapolis Colts' running back Dominic Rhodes last week.

Much of the roster is young, however, eager to make names for themselves with hopes of following Trestman.

Two region contributions to the CFL are tackle Xavier Fulton, who played at Illinois and prepped at Homewood-Flossmoor; and defensive end Brandon Jordan, born in Merrillville and a former Illini player.

John Erik Campbell feels most alive while still chasing his NFL dream, which never gets old.

"Chasing the dream? I'm living the dream. I'm coaching," he said. "I love football and will do this for as long as I can."

Campbell is only 47. Marc Trestman, are you listening?

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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