"I'd stretch before workouts and then I'd just stand around for two hours," Campbell recalls. "I went through a whole season getting worse. That's what bothered me. It wasn't so much that I didn't start or that I didn't play at all—I didn't even get to practice!"
Strange, but at the school where the atom was first split and where future lawyers are taught to find subatomic loopholes, a pro-size quarterback went unnoticed on the football sideline.
In late 1977 White was fired and replaced by one of his assistants, Theder, who has started Campbell ever since. In Rich's debut as a soph, against Nebraska, he threw two TD passes. And to show he wasn't just a passing fancy, after his second game, a 17 for 23 performance against Georgia Tech, he was named to UPI's Backfield of the Week.
His All-America chances evaporated, however, when Cal was chewed up by UCLA, 45-0, on national TV. In that game, Campbell fired five passes to Bruins instead of Bears.
"It would take quite a nightmare to make something worse than that UCLA game," he says. "I've never even dreamed anything that bad.
"I did lose some confidence. Up to that game I really believed in myself. After that, I began questioning how good I really was."
There's no question in anybody's mind now. This season Campbell has thrown only 10 interceptions, despite averaging more than 29 passes a game.
Theder says, "I put Rich in the Bartkowski-Roth class. Joe didn't have the arm that Rich has, wasn't as physical. Bart had it all as far as the arm strength—I don't know if there'll be another one like him—but he didn't have quite the great feet.
"Rich is smoother than any of 'em we've ever had." The best thing, however, might be that Cal has him for another year.