Within the borders of the Lone Star State, the amount of reverence for the name Dave Campbell long ago reached mythical proportions.
How else did his annual summer publication get dubbed “the bible of Texas football” without a trace of sarcasm or hyperbole?
The legendary sportswriter and editor died at age 96 on Friday, Dec. 11 in his Waco home and left behind a legacy as rich and detailed as the magazines he was famous for producing. Campbell, who began piecing together his Texas Football publication from his kitchen table in Waco in 1960, saw it become the go-to guide for all things gridiron-related with regard to his home state.
Greg Tepper, who took over as the managing editor of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football in 2011, said the founder left an indelible mark not only on the sport of football, but the state itself.
“He was a visionary and a pioneer,” Tepper said on Friday. “He was a wizard with a typewriter — an unbelievable writer and editor and a true icon of Texas journalism. All of that is true, but the reason why there’s a hole in our heart today is not because we lost a great editor or a great writer. It’s because we lost Dave.”
A Waco native, Campbell graduated from La Vega High School before enrolling at Baylor University. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1950, Campbell served as the sports editor of the Waco Tribune from 1953 to 1993.
Prior to that, Campbell served the United States Army in the 14th Armored Division that fought in France and Germany during World War II.
Campbell’s first issue of Texas Football was published in 1960 and featured the Longhorns’ Jack Collins on the cover. Over time, the magazine grew from its humble beginnings to include every college and high school team in Texas — and offered an unprecedented deep dive into the roster of each squad.
Current Westlake head coach Todd Dodge remembered being in the 1980 summer edition of Texas Football as a senior quarterback for Jefferson High School in Port Arthur. Dodge said he got to meet Campbell when he began coaching in the 1990s at Cameron Yoe.
“I think back to the first time I got to meet him and he was such a genuine kind man,” Dodge said. “It was a real thrill for me. As the years progressed, I always made sure to come see him at coaching school and shake his hand and see how he was doing.”
Although Campbell sold the rights to Texas Football in 1985, his name continues to grace the cover of every publication and he still served as the editor-in-chief until his recent passing. Campbell was also an instrumental part of moving the Texas Sports Hall of Fame from Grand Prairie to Waco in order to revive it as well as give it a stronger foothold.
Campbell’s fame grew to a national level as his work earned him respect from coast to coast. He also spent time as the president of the Football Writers Association of America and even took on a role that oversaw the process of Heisman Trophy voting.
But Campbell was a true Texan, in every sense of the word. His gentle smile and willingness to chat about all things football — including his beloved Southwest Conference — will endure as long as student-athletes flock to grocery stores and corner shops to grab a magazine bearing his name.
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