Where he belongs!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The media crowd had mostly cleared. It was that quiet time, more of reflection than celebration, when players sit there and look around the room.

Sean Fleming sat in the Eskimos' dressing room here Sunday night contemplating coming back here today for the Grey Cup.

"You know what's really neat about this? You look around this room and at what different people on this team have been through.

"I'm not talking about me. There are so many stories so similar. There's Danny Maciocia. A lot of fans wanted to get rid of him as head coach at one point. Last year at this time there was Jason Maas. Everybody wanted to get rid of him at the end of the year.

"But maybe more than anybody it's neat to see Rick Campbell over there. This really validates him. He's a real coach!"

HOW MAAS GOT HERE

There's that. Not only is there that, but as Edmonton is celebrating the Legend of Jason Maas, this would be the time to remind you how, exactly, Maas came to the Eskimos.

Rick Campbell was a volunteer graduate assistant at the University of Oregon when Maas was the Ducks quarterback.

"Rick was very keen on Jason. He convinced me to fly to Oregon, not to visit him, but to watch Jason," said Rick's dad, Hugh, the Eskimos' CEO.

At the start of this season, Hugh Campbell's kid was named defensive co-ordinator.

"A lot of people were questioning what Rick Campbell was doing in that position," said Fleming. "You'd hear the word nepotism. It was one of those deals that if it looks funny it probably is funny. But look at what he has done with the defence. We've really seen Rick grow as a coach. He's earned the respect of the entire team. They don't look at him as Hugh's son."

When the Eskimos return here today, rookie head coach Danny Maciocia is going to be one of the biggest stories in the Grey Cup, the story of a Canadian kid from Montreal who didn't play football and who worked as a volunteer coach with the Montreal Alouettes to break into the pro game. But in the background will stand Rick Campbell, who, in many ways, has the same story.

Despite the bloodlines as son of Gluey Hughie -- the star Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver -- his football career consisted of two years at Harry Ainlay high school. He coached high school in Spokane. He was a volunteer coach in college.

Maciocia, for sure, is not surrounded by an assistant coaching staff made up of people on anybody's list to fill any of the vacant head-coaching jobs around the league. And Maciocia admits he didn't really know what he was getting, with young Rick.

"I didn't really get to know Rick until this year. The first three years he worked on the other side of the ball. There was hardly any interaction. It's hard to get to know someone when that's the case. When I was hired he only said one thing to me. He said, 'You know, I can do it!'

"I spent a week talking to him. He was so well-versed and detailed. He knew what the hell he was talking about. It changed the way I looked at him."

Maciocia sees the comparison to himself.

"There are a lot of similarities. I had to leave Montreal to get any credibility. As long as I was there I believed the only reason I was there was that I could speak some French. It was so unfair. And it's been so unfair that a lot of people have looked at Rick as the only reason he's here is that he's Hugh Campbell's son."

HUGH SAID NO

CEO Campbell said then-Eskimo head coach Kay Stephenson wanted to hire Rick, and Hugh said no. Ironically, it was Don Matthews, who is back in the Grey Cup with the Montreal Alouettes, who hired him before Hugh fired Matthews in Edmonton.

"I told Don, 'This will bring us both a headache,' " said Hugh.

"I wasn't planning on coming up here," said Rick. "When I did, I knew my being Hugh's son was always going to be an issue outside the dressing room. I knew it was going to be part of the territory. When Danny hired me as defensive co-ordinator I knew he was putting both of us at high risk. He was a new head coach and I was Hugh's son. I knew if things didn't go well ..."

So does getting here in his first season as defensive co-ordinator validate him?

"It's great if it does from the outside. But I know I've been validated inside. That's the most important thing. You can't fake it with the players."


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