The 2002 football season was a year to remember for Versailles and its fans.
After all, it turned out to be the best season in school history after the Tigers completed a perfect 10-0 regular season with a conference and district title in hand. While that season brings back many fond memories, for some the path to success began long before that.
Nick Campbell was a senior and the quarterback of that Tiger team. Now a Quarterbacks Coach for Angelton High School near Houston, Texas, Campbell still vividly remembers that special season and what made things click- being a cohesive, tight-knit group that could depend upon one another.
“We expected to win and that was our mentality, so going through all those days in seventh grade, eighth grade, junior varsity and varsity, it was just one of those things. When senior year came around and things started clicking, it was one of those experiences you live for,” Campbell said of the team. “It was not just one person, but everybody pitched in their role, we came together and did something special that had never been done before.”
The wins quickly started to pile up as the Tigers ran a wishbone offense under Coach Bob Ramsey that was often too difficult to stop. Campbell said that even though opposing teams knew what was coming, they could not prepare for the power and speed Versailles played with and the quarterback also enjoyed having free reign to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage to keep defenses on their toes. Overall, he described it as a “well-oiled machine.”
Still, the Tigers continued to remain humble not worrying about anything other than winning the next game.
“After each win we tried not to look too far ahead and we did not think about it,” Campbell remarked. “It was win this one before the next one and before we knew it, we were 10-0 and won the conference and district title which was pretty rare in Versailles.”
However, the quarterback could not help but enjoy the atmosphere around Morgan County at the time as well. Campbell recalled a game against Tri-County Conference foe California where the stands were packed and even the entire track was surrounded.
“I’ve never seen so many fans at any games like that before. I attended games in high school when we were playing other teams, but never at home where fans from other towns and not even fans of Versailles were showing up to our games,” he stated. “With our community, it was fun to be a part of and seeing everyone show up. It made you want to compete at a higher level.”
Then came time for the Class 3A state sectionals where the No. 3 state-ranked Tigers hosted an 8-2 Salem team they had faced the previous year in sectional play and lost in overtime. Versailles jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and were up 21-6 just before halftime when Salem put together a quick touchdown drive. The touchdown fueled Salem as it went on top the Tigers 31-29 after a potential game-winning field goal clanked off the crossbar.
“The crazy thing is that we jumped out early on them. We came out like gangbusters and just before half we noticed there were five or six seconds on the clock,” Campbell recalled. “They ran a run play and somehow got to run another play before half and cut the deficit down. We never really recovered and could not make plays down the stretch to stop them and keep the lead to win it.”
It was a tough loss to take, but Campbell said he was proud of what the team accomplished.
“Losing that first game in the playoffs and knowing they (Salem) went on to finish second at state gets at you a little bit and puts a bad taste in your mouth,” he noted. “Anytime you go 10-0, it is a goal of every team tso that is something to be proud about… Overall, we held a lot of records that still stand today so I was proud of everybody that contributed as a team.”
After graduation, Campbell briefly played football for Lindenwood University and the University of Central Missouri. Then, he decided to follow one of his old assistant coaches from Versailles in Jay Buckner, who coached the running backs and defensive backs for the Tigers and later took an athletic director and coaching job in Texas. After Buckner departed from that position, Campbell transferred to a nearby school where he is currently coaching 5A football.
When asked if he had any message or words of advice for the Tigers lining up for Versailles today, Campbell offered the advice he currently gives his own players- be a good teammate and take care of the little things.
“Pick your teammates up and don’t take plays off because you never know when that last play could happen for you in your career,” Campbell said. “Little things turn into big things and when you take care of the little things, those big things like victories and individual accomplishments come pretty easily.”
Campbell also noted how important it was to put in hard work during the offseason.
“Personally, I thought I was a really good athlete, but I did not work hard enough to make myself better in high school and it did not pay dividends like I wanted it to in my career,” he stated. “Many kids today have a better work ethic and more to accomplish because kids are bigger, stronger, faster and the game is evolving. So don’t take things for granted.”
Although he may be hundreds of miles away in Texas, Campbell said he still keeps in touch with at least 95 percent of the team and still visits his old town every now and then. When he moved to Versailles in seventh grade, it was a move he was glad he made as the group is still a cohesive bunch.
“From time to time, I try to talk to them and see how their lives are going with their families,” he pointed out. “We always try to keep in touch and we have a brotherhood we will always share together.”