Kampe, Nehlen in good company at Hall of Fame


Bowling Green State University alums Greg Kampe and Don Nehlen were part of the inaugural class of 23 that was just inducted into the new National High School Football Hall of Fame, which took place on Sunday in Umstattd Hall, on the campus of McKinley Senior High School in Canton.

Joining Kampe and Nehlen in the class were such greats as Jim Brown, Paul Brown, Archie Griffin, Archie Manning, Cooper Manning, Eli Manning and Peyton Manning.

Kampe played football and basketball at Bowling Green out of Defiance High School. He was an all-state defensive back at Defiance and earned all-district honors in basketball after averaging 20.8 points per game as a senior.

At BGSU he played defensive back and punter. At the time, Kampe set a BGSU and MAC record for best single-game yards per punt average with 57.5 against Southern Miss. That currently is ranked No. 4 in the BGSU record book.

His longest punt in that game went 77 yards which was also a BGSU record that has since been passed. Kampe is currently the head men’s basketball coach at Oakland and will enter his 40th season this winter.

“I played in a time when football was king,” said Kampe, “It was during the ten-year war between Michigan and Ohio State; my senior year I played every down, I was the quarterback, the safety, the punter, the kicker, the punt returner, the kick returner.

“I think I represented small-town, rural football in a time where football was king. I believe that I’m being honored, not so much for me, but for what I represented.

“I’m the guy they picked to represent Defiance, Ohio. On a Friday night, everybody would lock their stores, get in their cars, and drive to wherever the game was. It was a community event, the football season. The word Defiance across my jersey meant way more than the word Kampe did in those days.”

Nehlen was a multi-sport athlete at Lincoln High School in Canton where excelled in football, basketball, and baseball. Nehlen played quarterback at Bowling Green (1955–1957) and led the team to a MAC championship in 1956.

He began his coaching career in 1958 at Mansfield Senior High School and then served as head coach at Canton South High School and later Canton McKinley High School. Nehlen was an assistant coach at Bowling Green in 1967 and took over as head coach from 1968-76.

He also served as head coach at West Virginia from 1980-2000 with stint as Michigan’s quarterback coach from 1977-79. Nehlen was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and the BGSU Hall of Fame in 1978.

When Nehlen started his head coaching career at Canton South in 1959, he was 23 years old, and the South program was coming off a winless campaign in 1958 with multiple losing seasons in a row prior.

“I got the job because nobody wanted it,” said Nehlen. “My first year at Canton South we won four and lost four and they thought I was Knute Rockne.

“To win four games at Canton South at that time, they were thrilled to death. Then, the next year we won more and the next year we won even more and the last year we came within a whisker of going undefeated.

“The McKinley job, there was such great tradition there and at that time was probably the second-best high school job in the country.”

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