The New York Giants drafted Dan Campbell as a player, and his time there laid the foundation for his coaching career.
Dan Campbell has some history with the current New York Giants coaching staff, having interviewed with head coach Brian Daboll in a previous spot over a decade ago. But the Lions head coach started his career as a player with the Giants, as a third-round pick in the 1999 draft out of Texas A&M. He would spend the first four seasons of his career in New York.
Campbell’s Lions will play against the Giants on Sunday, and he reflected on his time as a Giants’ player with ESPN’s Eric Woodyard.
"I remember getting labeled as a bust by a reporter too early because I was a grunt. That’s really what I did best. I was a blocker,” Campbell told ESPN. “I didn’t catch 50 balls in a season. That came once we drafted Jeremy Shockey, who I played with when he was a rookie.So, you hear these things and it’s like, ‘my God, what do you do with that?’ And when you’re young, you don’t know any different and when you hear it, it can affect you a little bit, but man, it doesn’t take long if you block that out and stay true to what your coaches are telling you.”"
Time early in playing career with the Giants made foundation for Dan Campbell
Without that time with the Giants, Campbell might not be a coach.
"Honestly, it was the best thing that ever happened to me because had I not had that experience, I wouldn’t be sitting where I’m sitting right now. That’s a fact,” Campbell said. “I was fortunate to get drafted there and won a lot of games, went to the Super Bowl, was around some really great players and some of my closest friends were still guys that I played with there.”"
In particular, Sean Payton was the Giants’ quarterbacks coach then the offensive coordinator when Campbell was a player. Later, as head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Payton hired Campbell as his tight ends coach. After five seasons under Payton, Campbell was hired as the Lions’ head coach.
Then-tight ends coach Mike Pope, who was on the coaching staff for all four of the Giants’ Super Bowl titles, also remains close to Campbell.
Where Campbell’s career as a head coach goes from here can’t be known. But starting his playing career in New York with the Giants gave him a foundation he couldn’t have quite gotten anywhere else at that point in time.