After poring over nearly 50 applications in the search for the next head football coach at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School, principal Terri Vandiver's most important interviews were with teenagers.
The right fit to replace the recently resigned Todd Windham, it seems, was already in the building. The Catoosa County School Board approved Monday night the hiring of current teacher and former assistant coach Bo Campbell, a move Vandiver is certain has the approval of those who will be most affected.
"First of all, I grew up in this area and I graduated from LFO, and I remember how important football was," Vandiver said. "It didn't matter if we won or lost, but everyone was into it. The spirit and pride was so evident. I had some community members who said we just want the pride back in the program.
"I also interviewed some of the players and asked them what they wanted. They all said they wanted someone who would love us, nurture us and train us to be good football players. Hey, that's Bo Campbell. He's the perfect fit."
Campbell has been on the LFO faculty for eight years and spent the first five coaching under Windham. He spent the past three seasons coaching with Charles Fant as the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. Campbell knew when Windham stepped down that this was a position he had to pursue.
"It's funny, because I never really left when it came to supporting LFO and with the relationships I had with the faculty, administration and students," he said. "It's kind of like I've had two jobs -- being a positive role model and teacher here and at the same time having the opportunity to help the student-athletes at Notre Dame.
"But this is home and this is where I feel I can be a positive influence on these kids."
Football participation has lapsed among students in recent seasons, with several top athletes leaving LFO for the two other Catoosa County schools, Ringgold and Heritage. Campbell said his first order of business is to establish more communication with students and the community.
"It will take all of us to build this program," he said. "I think everybody wanted a fresh start. I've already talked to several of the kids who did not play last year, and they're excited about coming out. You have to work relentlessly in building relationships with these kids."
Campbell admitted that part of his excitement in taking the position is the head start he has in knowing the challenge ahead and the support he's already gotten from the administration.
"One thing this place has going for it is we're a family," he said. "That's the big reason I applied for the job. I really feel like there's some great things going on here. We want to build relationships in the community and get people excited about LFO football and pack the stands on Friday night."
Campbell is already working on completing his staff, which will include his brother, Jason. According to Vandiver, the new coach will have more freedom to build a staff since there are a few teaching slots opening up. She's already excited about Friday nights next season.
"I've been fortunate enough to have some open teaching spots," said Vandiver, who will also name an athletic director to assume Windham's duties in the coming weeks. "It's going to be amazing with what they are going to do here when everything gets put into place."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.