Former rapper Luther Campbell, who at the time was a linebackers coach at Miami Central High, conducts practice in preparation for Miami Northwestern in state playoff game on Friday, November 26, 2010. (Miami Herald)
BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin is no stranger to contracts and agreements ending early, whether voluntarily (as seen in Tennessee) or with someone else making that decision (either on a tarmac or a projector).
There’s one deal Kiffin made after signing with the Owls in Dec. 2016, though it may not be notarized and signed, that the second-year FAU coach is sticking to in 2018: traveling to Liberty City for a football practice.
“I said (at the beginning), ‘listen, you ain’t gonna do it one time, we gotta do a two-year deal,” said Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, the rapper-turned-high school coach and football icon. “Because so many people are not gonna believe that it’s happening and so many kids (are) gonna love that it’s happening! For it not to happen again at least one more time, it would be hard on the kids.”
Campbell and his local fans, many of whom know the hip-hop legend for his coaching rather than his days with the 2 Live Crew and raps feuds, will have another chance to see Kiffin’s Owls practice in Liberty City on Saturday, April 14. FAU will also visit Fort Lauderdale’s Carter Park on April 7.
In the weeks leading up to their historic 11-3 season last summer, FAU traveled to Charles Hadley Park on Aug. 5. — though Kiffin was not in attendance that day, instead attending the funeral of father-in-law and former Florida quarterback John Reeves. Campbell still wasted no time that day in praising Kiffin, calling him a “rock star” when many were still doubting how the former Raiders, Tennessee, and USC head coach would fare at Florida Atlantic.
“Last year, that was a freakin’ treat for the kids to be able to have a college team come into the heart of Liberty City,” Campbell told The Post by phone. “[Liberty City is] the mecca of football … I had guys who played NFL calling up, they couldn’t believe it. They were looking at it on Twitter, on social media, and they just couldn’t believe it. A college team was playing on the park where they grew up at!”
— #AtlanticRising (@FAUAthletics) August 5, 2017
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, former All-Pro wide receiver Chad Johnson (or Ochocinco, depending on the day), and ex-Miami Hurricanes star Duke Johnson — now with the Cleveland Browns — were among those to get in touch with Campbell.
Former Hurricanes running back Clinton Portis was among the ex-NFL players to visit Kiffin and the Owls last year, a list which also included future Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson and Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Campbell and Culpepper were joined by Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake for the Owls’ Nov. 3 win over Marshall. Drake’s teammate and Dolphins offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James also tweeted his intentions to see the Owls practice this spring.
“We wanted to get out as much as we could,” Kiffin said last summer of the “road practices.” “It allows maybe some people who can’t get up here to come see us, whether it’s coaches, players or fans.”
Campbell added that the Owls coming to Liberty City again also provides examples of stability and hope for the younger fans, many of whom come from single-parent households.
“It’s a real tough area as far as dads leaving kids,” Campbell said. “When these kids get showed a lot of things, they get a lot of things taken from them. Just being able to say, ‘look. they’re gonna do this again next year,’ that’s a great thing.”
Campbell said that construction on Hadley Park’s football stadium, which was scheduled for this spring, has been pushed back to accommodate FAU’s arrival.
Times for the Owls’ practices this spring, including the visit to Hadley Park, have yet to officially be announced, but last year’s open scrimmage began at roughly 3 p.m. The Post obtained an email sent to students last month for a volunteer football job which said Tuesday and Thursday practices this spring would be held between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturday practices are expected to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.