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Prized 'recruit' Dan Campbell makes presence felt as Saints assistant

METAIRIE, La. -- Sean Payton didn’t exactly interview Dan Campbell for the roles of New Orleans Saints assistant head coach and tight ends coach.

“In his case, it was a little bit of a recruitment,” Payton said.

Campbell was in high demand after he raised his profile last year by serving as the Miami Dolphins' interim head coach. The Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings were also among teams reportedly interested in hiring the fiery assistant.

Fortunately for the Saints, Payton had a recruiting edge because as had coached Campbell for a total of eight years when he was a tight end with the New York Giants, Cowboys and briefly with the Saints.

And Campbell was just as sold on Payton as Payton was on him.

“To me, it was a pretty easy sell. And the biggest factor was Coach Payton. I know who he is, I know what he’s about. And hey, man, he’s proven himself as a coach,” said Campbell, who also pointed out that he has ties to several other Saints assistants, including defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and defensive line coach Bill Johnson, dating back to their days together at Texas A&M.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say [the assistant head coach title] had something to do with. At the same time, I’m just happy to be here. And I was happy to get the opportunity to coach under Coach Payton and be part of the Saints again because it’s a winning organization.

“Anybody can say what you want; the last couple years haven't been the way everybody wants. But I know where this team is headed and I know who’s at the top, and that was the biggest deciding factor.”

Campbell’s intensity, passion and his deep, booming voice have stood out during his early months on the job.

As Saints left tackle Terron Armstead put it, “he’s a force.”

But that isn’t the quality that Payton or Saints tight end Coby Fleener mentioned first when asked about Campbell.

“No. 1, I think he’s a real good teacher,” Payton said, before adding, “I think he’s tough. I think he’s extremely talented. ... I think he’s someone that will be a head coach in our league.”

“I have really liked working with Dan,” Fleener said. “As a former player, he understands it from a different perspective than a lot of guys do. But he’s also very intelligent and can explain things in a way that is a lot more in-depth than simple X's and O's. He gives a certain reason for why things go on or why we do things this way or that way, which I really appreciate.

“He is very passionate about what he does and I appreciate that. I appreciate the way he approaches his work and the way he approaches the players he’s coaching ... as intelligent men who can be self-sufficient, while giving us the support we need.”

Campbell played 11 years in the NFL with four different teams – the Giants, Cowboys, Detroit Lions and Saints (one year spent on injured reserve during their 2009 Super Bowl season). He then spent six years coaching for the Dolphins.

“I was fortunate enough to have a pretty long career, so I’ve tried everything," Campbell said. "And I’ve been coached a lot of different ways and techniques, and the beauty of that is you take the best of that with you.

“So I feel like now that I’ve gotten to this point, I’ve got a lot of good things in the toolbox to give these guys that either I’ve tried or I’ve seen good players do. That goes from [Jeremy] Shockey to [Jason] Witten ... and all kind of talent level. What a guy can do or can’t do with his ability.”

Campbell acknowledged that the intense, vocal style “is me,” and it’s probably a big part of the reason he was hired. But he also said he recognizes that he is “the new guy.”

“There’s a time to speak, there’s a time to keep your mouth shut and know when to do that,” Campbell said. “You want to be yourself, but at the same time you know, hey, 'I’m just a piece of this puzzle and I gotta know where I fit in.'"