On Monday night, legendary NFL coach Jim Fassel passed away due to a heart attack. Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell knew Fassel well. When Campbell was drafted into the NFL in 1999, Fassel was his first head coach. So as Campbell took the podium on Tuesday morning ahead of the team’s first mandatory minicamp practice, he took a few minutes to remember his first NFL head coach.
“It was one of the best experiences I ever had were those years,” Campbell recalled of his early NFL days. :Some of my best friends I ever had were there. Some of my closest friends and some of the best coaches I ever had were there.”
Fassel built an army of NFL coaching talent during his time in New York. Sean Payton, John Fox and Mike Pope all passed through the franchise under Fassel. You can tell a lot about a man by the people he surrounds himself with, a philosophy Campbell is certainly trying to mirror by building his first coaching staff here in Detroit.
Campbell also reminisced about some of the most memorable seasons of his career under Fassel. Whether it was the 2000 Giants who, coming off a two-game losing streak, were trying to get their season back on track. Fassel guaranteed the team would make the playoffs, and the Giants went on to win seven in a row—taking them all the way to Super Bowl 35.
“It was a special season. We rallied. It’s a credit to Jim,” Campbell said.
Fassel was the Giants head coach from 1997 to 2003. He made the playoffs in three of those seven seasons and racked up a 58-53-1 record. He retired from coaching in 2013. He was 71 years old.
“Just thoughts and prayers to his family,” Campbell closed. “I wanted to make sure I passed that along. I know that was long, but I needed to say that.”
Here are Campbell’s full thoughts: