By DAVE SKRETTA, Associated Press
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Dave Campo gives off a grandfatherly vibe when he walks into the homes of potential recruits.
His hair is turning gray, his voice is husky yet tinged with a certain Southern charm, and his bushy eyebrows seem to dance across his forehead whenever he gets excited.
Then the words start tumbling out, and it becomes clear the 64-year-old Campo feels nothing like a grandfather, though he is one. He feels more like a spry young coach about to embark on a new career after more than two decades spent toiling away with the Dallas Cowboys.
"You know how they say people change careers in mid-stream get rejuvenated? That's how I kind of feel right now," said Campo, who is back in college football for the first time in 24 years as the defensive coordinator for Charlie Weis' rebuilding job at Kansas.
"You get to a certain age, I think this is like a change in career," Campo said. "The spread offense, the running game and some of those things, that's a learning thing for me. I'm having to jump back in and it's giving me more energy than I've had."
Campo brings perhaps the most impressive credentials to a unique coaching staff.
Along with the former Cowboys head coach, who flashes three Super Bowl rings earned as an assistant in Dallas, there's former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Tim Grunhard; former Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus; and former Akron head coach Rob Ianello, among others.
Weis has drawn on connections established throughout his own career to assemble a staff that has a mixture of college, NFL and even high school coaching experience.
"I know we didn't come here to lose," said Grunhard, who will coach the offensive line after spending the last several years at a suburban Kansas City high school. "I don't know much about what the last staff did, but I know this staff has a bunch of good guys who want to win."
That's easier said than done at Kansas.
Sure, there was a victory in the Orange Bowl a few years ago, and the school has produced its share of Hall of Fame players, among them John Riggins and Gale Sayers.
But for the last two decades, the Jayhawks have played in the shadows of the juggernaut program that Bill Snyder built just down I-70 at Kansas State. The Wildcats whipped overmatched Kansas 59-21 this season, one of 10 losses that resulted in the firing of Turner Gill.
The only coaches retained from Gill's staff were running backs coach Reggie Mitchell and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt, who were credited with keeping Kansas' recruiting class intact.
The Jayhawks pulled in 20 prospects Wednesday, many of whom could compete right away.
"This was an opportunity to come back and work with Charlie Weis, and an opportunity to come back and work in a big conference at a program that had success just short time ago," said Powlus, who worked under Weis at Notre Dame before spending the past couple seasons at Akron.
Powlus understands that it won't be easy to win at Kansas.
He knew hardly anything about the program until the opportunity arose to join it, having grown up in Pennsylvania and played for the Fighting Irish. But like most of Weis' staff, once he arrived on campus, he was sold immediately on the friendly atmosphere and picturesque campus.
The chance to create something from thin air, too.
"It was a chance to go someplace where there's great support," he said. "Our goal isn't to go out and win a couple games and see what we can do. We want to win a bunch of games."
Campo didn't sign up to be part of a losing program, either.
"The first thing that entered my mind was, this is kind of interesting," he said. "I've always liked Charlie, always had a lot of respect for him. It came as a bit of surprise."
Campo was part of the staff that was fired in Dallas, and even though he was offered a chance to stay within the organization, he still wanted to be coach. That's what made the phone call from Weis so intriguing, even if he wasn't expecting it.
"He went back and talked to his wife and I called him up and said, 'Well, what do you think?' And he hemmed and hawed and I said, 'Ok, What you do think?'" Weis recalled. "And he said 'OK, I'm coming, I'm coming.' So that turned out really well for us."
Weis said the biggest mistake he made during his failed tenure at Notre Dame was putting together a staff that didn't quite fit. He had trouble delegating, some coaches failed to work well together, and the result was a disjointed feeling that translated to the field.
That's why he spent a little extra time hiring his staff at Kansas, and he's confident that the crew he brought together will be successful.
"I could give you a conga line of some of the top coaches that want in here," he said, "but the question is are they going to fit? Are they going to work together? Can they work with me?
"I think that's the thing I probably learned the most," Weis said. "Chemistry in a coaching staff is a critical factor."
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