Once in a while, a person comes along and makes a real difference. Their impact is so huge that they become as great as the endeavor in which they are involved. Such is the case with Atlantic City High School Athletic Director Frank Campo.
Recently Campo announced he will retire next June. At that time he will have provided Atlantic City High School with 43 years of service, the last 28 as director of athletics. Campo will leave behind a legacy of hard work, intelligence, honesty and the best dry sense of humor you will ever see.
I first met Campo in 1971 during his first year at ACHS when he was a teacher and track coach. I had just started running and went out for the track team. I was not a very talented athlete at that time, but he quickly took me under his wing. He set a foundation that would benefit me for years to come. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a friendship that would span more than four decades.
During the 1970s, Campo was one of the most successful track coaches in Atlantic City history. He coached many champion and record-breaking athletes. His unbeaten 1975 track team marked the last time an ACHS track squad has gone undefeated. In those days, Coach Campo would give us great pep talks, which usually included, "There is no doubt in my mind that we can beat this team today."
During Campo's tenure, many of the school's teams have had great achievements. He made major contributions to the success of many teams and student-athletes. He is more than a great athletic leader; he is someone who truly gets it. A quote from Vince Lombardi sums up Campo best: "A person can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done."
Campo is genuinely dedicated to the students and the school and has no ego about it. He does everything from meeting with college recruiters to mentoring student athletes to striping the football field to cleaning up the gym after a game. One of my favorite stories occurred back in the late 1980s, when there was a large snowfall the night before the annual Holy Spirit Thanksgiving football game. Early the next morning before the sun came up, Campo was at the field plowing the snow. He is the ultimate team player and will do whatever it takes.
Campo's vision goes well beyond athletics. He is a teacher at heart, and although his classroom might be a gym or an athletic field, he understands the importance of education, family and life in general. He had a profound influence on my life and on the lives of a lot of people I know. When all is said and done, Campo's legacy won't be judged by a win and loss record. As in the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus," his ultimate success is in the lives that he has touched. And we are all the better for it.
From time to time, iconic sports figures are acknowledged with a celebration tour during their final season. Frank Campo has earned his place in Atlantic City history and there is no doubt in my mind that there will never be another one like him. Let the tour begin.
Jay Hurley, of Northfield, 56,
is a financial advisor. He was captain of the 1975 undefeated Atlantic City High School track team that won the South Jersey title.
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