MIAMI – Known for his sometimes over-the-top support of the Miami Hurricanes football program, rapper-turned-football-coach Luther Campbell says he boarded the Lane Train even before its current conductor arrived at FAU.
Campbell insists he began following the Owls when their first celebrity coach, Howard Schnellenberger, founded the program.
“I didn’t talk to him at the point when he was starting the program, but I was really excited,” Campbell said.
Campbell’s 2 Live Crew was still a few years away from commercial success in 1983 when Schnellenberger led Miami to its first national title.
“He just had a fascination with the football team,” Schnellenberger recalls.
A Miami native and a football fan, Campbell attended Hurricane practices and games as a youth during the Schenllenberger era.
Years later, during the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl, Campbell and Schnellenberger watched the game from the same suite, providing Campbell the opportunity to take a photo with the man who led the Hurricanes to the pinnacle of college football.
“Knowing that he’s the guy that created the State of the U, you can’t do nothing but appreciate the richness that he brought,” Campbell said.
Campbell grew closer to the Hurricane’s program in the years that followed Schnellenberger’s departure from Miami, and in the mid 90s he was linked to the pay for play scandal that landed the Hurricanes on probation.
When FAU launched its football program a few years later Campbell’s curiosity prompted him to make the drive north to see what the Owls offered.
“I always have been an FAU fan,” Campbell said. “I just thought it was always a really good college atmosphere.”
During the early years Campbell viewed his trips to FAU football games as a peaceful escape from the often chaotic city of Miami.
“I would go to the games,” Campbell said. “It was like my get away.”
He grew closer to the program when Charlie Partridge, Kiffin’s predecessor, embraced Campbell’s influence in the Miami youth football community.
Campbell began bringing members of his youth football programs to camps hosted by Partridge.
“When Partridge got there it was more because he wanted to recruit South Florida, being that he was a South Florida guy,” Campbell said of the relationship.
Campbell still talks with Partridge, now the defensive line coach at Pitt.
The ties between Campbell and FAU grew stronger with Kiffin’s arrival.
Campbell’s name became associated with FAU more frequently when the Owls soared to 11 wins and their first Conference USA championship.
Famous for his Twitter personality, Kiffin constantly texts football ideas and plays, Campbell said.
“That’s my home boy there,” Kiffin said. “That’s my roll dog. I love Lane,”
Under Kiffin, FAU twice held practices at Hadley Park in Miami’s run down Liberty City area – one during last year’s fall camp and the other being Saturday’s scrimmage.
Campbell lauded the move, saying it exposed area inner-city kids to FAU while giving youth football players something to work for.
“On Saturday’s normally kids die around here,” Campbell said.
The low turnout – only about 100 people attended the scrimmage – didn’t alter Campbell’s opinion of the event.
“I was pretty much pleased,” Campbell said. “The thing is, when the sun goes down in this neighborhood, then you get a big crowd of people, but for the most part it was good.”