One yard. A big giant step. One yard and your life changes. One yard from glory.

Former ballplayers have the best stories. The good talkers can take an incident from a game many years ago and make it the centerpiece of speeches that they give long after they have finished playing. The “formers,” can be funny, heart wrenching, give inside looks at the teams in their respective eras, inside look at great stars. Randy Campbell is good at it.

Randy is one of the good guys. Today he is a financial advisor in his business Campbell Wealth Management. We serve on the Auburn University Foundation Board together. Imagine that two former football players. We made the transition.

I didn’t know Randy well before he came on the board a year ago. We played in different decades at Auburn. I knew of him. He played quarterback in the 1980s, on some great Auburn teams. He is a great speaker. Randy jokes he was famous for handing off to all-everything runner Bo Jackson. There is some truth to that. Bo was the truth so why not?

Still, Randy was no slouch. He is well remembered. He was 20-4 as a starting quarterback. In the 1983 Tangerine Bowl, he became the answer to a TV trivia question. “The 1983 Tangerine Bowl featured two Heisman Trophy winners, Bo Jackson and Doug Flutie. Who was the MVP?” The answer, Randy Campbell!

Back to Randy’s story. He relishes telling it. It’s like the secret only he thought of.

Here goes.

It’s the 1984 version of the Iron Bowl rivalry game Auburn vs Alabama. It’s a game that Bo will make famous with his “Bo Over the Top” leap at the goal line to give Auburn the victory over Alabama 23-22.

Randy tells the story.

“It’s third down, we’re threatening to score. I throw a swing pass out to Bo. Bo takes it down to the one-yard line. He almost scored. He came up a yard short. Of course he then goes over the top on the next play for the winning touchdown.”

I’m waiting for the punch line. Randy wears his “I’ve got a secret” look on his face.

“If he had scored on the swing pass, instead of “Bo Over the Top,” the headline could have read, “Campbell throws the winning TD in victory over Alabama.” Instead Bo was close, so close, tackled at the one-yard line. Man, I was one yard from glory.”

He looks me in the eye. I grin. It’s a great story. Crowd pleaser. Crowds like self-deprecating humor, especially from athletes who have been at the top of the food chain.

Sports is full of close, almost, damn near, shoulda, woulda, coulda, one play here, one play there type moments. If only such and such, stays safely locked in our memories many years later.

One yard from Glory!

I’ve embellished Randy wanting to be the hero. He is a pretty humble guy. All winning team oriented athletes will tell you, what mattered is that their team won far more than they lost. The team is what counts.

Randy says that. But like many of us “formers” he likes to have fun with his stories.

He says, “I told that story to Bo. I said, ‘Man, if you hadn’t gotten tackled on the one-yard line, the headline would have been “Campbell Tosses Winning TD” instead of Bo Over the Top.’ He wasn’t amused.”

Randy repeated, “Campbell to Jackson for the winning TD.”

He smiled.

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