It was the football version of The Three Amigos, the sight of former Arizona State players Steve Campbell and Vince Amey standing at midfield last night after the Gilbert Williams Field-Marana game sharing laughs with ex-Wildcat defender Kelvin Hunter.
Based on their collegiate affiliations, and their body types, the combination of the three together was quite unusual and unique.
Campbell, the head coach at Gilbert Williams Field, is the former ASU quarterback who stands at 6-foot-8 and played behind Jake Plummer from 1995 to 1998.
Amey is the formidable looking defensive tackle from ASU who played at 6-2 and 290 pounds. Bucking public sentiment of Sun Devil fans, Amey recently was Arizona’s defensive line coach under coach Rich Rodriguez and is now the defensive coordinator at Marana.
Hunter, Williams Field’s defensive coordinator, played at a shorter 5-9 and 175 pounds but he was tough as nails physically with his man-to-man coverage, just like Dick Tomey and his defensive assistants Duane Akina and Rich Ellerson liked their cornerbacks.
Campbell, Amey and Hunter all played in college at roughly the same time from the mid- to late-1990’s.
There they were after Williams Field outscored Marana 21-0 in the second half for a 33-14 victory, joking around, tugging at each other’s arms, laughing about their memories.
“Hey, it’s a house divided, U of A vs. ASU, but we all get along,” Hunter said. “But, you know, come November, when its ASU vs. U of A, and that’s the game next on the schedule, that’s when we’ll start talking. Other than that, we’re rooting for each other and rooting for the Pac-12.”
Campbell considers Hunter first and foremost a friend with whom he has entrusted with his defense, which looked superb last night limiting Marana to 265 yards in total offense and keeping the Tigers out of the end zone in the second half. Hunter joined Campbell’s staff at Tempe McClintock for one season before moving with Campbell to Williams Field when the school opened eight years ago.
Campbell likes Hunter’s upfront, candid and endearing personality — Hunter is a special education teacher at Williams Field — and what that means to the program’s philosophy of having the “attitude and effort” to succeed.
“With good attitude and effort, you are more likely to succeed in your undertakings throughout your life,” Campbell said.
Hunter credits Campbell for “elevating myself as a defensive coordinator and coach,” with Campbell’s style and philosophies learned from his father, Gary Campbell, a legendary high school at Norco High School in California for 31 years.
Hunter, part of Arizona’s 12-1 team in 1998, got into coaching because of what he terms, “a crazy story.”
“I was sitting on my couch and my buddy who I played with on the Arizona Rattlers, Kelvin Ingram, called me and said, ‘Hey can you come out here (to Tempe McClintock High School) and help because our defensive backs are struggling a little bit?’ I said, ‘Yeah,'” Hunter said.
“From there, I got the bug. How I handle my guys I take from from a lot of great coaches I have played under — Danny White and Doug Plank (with the Arizona Rattlers), Coach Tomey, Coach Akina, Coach Ellerson, my (Los Angeles Hawthorne) high school coach (Dan) Robbins. I’ve had a lot of great influences so I take a little bit of all of them.”
Hunter does not have the NFL background as his former roommate at Arizona, Chris McAlister, arguably the best cornerback to play for the Wildcats. But Hunter, who played in the Arena Football League for eight years, has what it takes to get his players’ attention.
“Kids always ask me how come I didn’t go pro (play in the NFL),” Hunter said. “I tell them I am where I’m supposed to be. At the end of the day, I’m here to help these young kids develop and become better athletes and better men.
“If I’m not here, who knows what they’d be doing or what other person would be doing with them? I’m just happy I am able to come out here and be able to do this for so long.”
Of course, when McAlister’s name is mentioned, the 1998 team comes into discussion. Is it the best team in Arizona in history, better than the 1993 team that went 10-2 and shut out Miami in the Fiesta Bowl with the Desert Swarm defense?
“I’d say yes, based off of record,” Hunter said. “That 1993 team was pretty good, but based off the record and how we finished, I would say yes that’s the best team. Plus, I played on it. I’m getting a little cocky there.”
Hunter laughed at the comment, but there is no denying its validity. That ties into his career. There is no denying his ability on the football field, now as a coach. Wherever he’s gone, he’s won without all the fan fare.
That determination is helped with his experience with the 1998 team, which came a quarter away (losing to UCLA late) from being undefeated.
“That 1998 team, that’s one team that was a true band of brothers,” Hunter said. “That was one of those teams in which you did not want to let the guy next to you down. That’s why we were so successful.”
His new band of brothers with Williams Field includes a former ASU foe in Campbell who is now a good friend.
“It’s been great,” Hunter said. “We believed in each other when we developed that trust.”
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.