"I pop in the tape every once a while," Campo admits.

That season's 5-11 began horribly, with a humiliating loss to the expansion Houston Texans.

"That one," Campo says, "still stings."

A bust as Cowboys head coach, Campo is one of the best assistants in football.
Peter Newcomb/NFL Photos
A bust as Cowboys head coach, Campo is one of the best assistants in football.

Fired by Jones but not stripped of his acumen, Campo caught on with former coaching buddy Butch Davis in Cleveland for two years and three more with former pupil Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville. And now, the most awkward homecoming since Gabe Kaplan's return to Buchanan High.

"A little strange, sure. In my wildest dreams I never thought I'd be back," Campo says. "But I was here 14 years. I'll always be a Cowboy."

Back where it all began, he's in charge of a secondary that lost Jacques Reeves and Keith Davis in free agency. That may or may not include Pacman Jones. That, if the season started today, would include on depth chart guys such as Alan Ball and Evan Oglesby. That desperately needs Williams to again be an elite, impact player.

"Hopefully I'll be the old tutor that reminds him of the glory days," says Campo, who drafted Williams eighth overall in '02. "I think he'll respect what I have to say."

Campo wants another sip of success. It's why he gave up Ponte Vedra, Florida (where he lived on TPC Sawgrass next to pro golfers Frank Lickliter and Len Mattice), for cookie-cutter Coppell.

"Coming back has been like a shot of B-12 because this is where the good times happened," Campo says. "You get your butt kicked so often that, at some point, you start to question what you know. But as good as I feel now I could do this another 10 years."

Maybe—who knows?—even again someday as a head coach.

"I guess you never want to close that door," says Campo, squirming in his seat. "It's an ego thing, I admit it. In the back of my mind I'll always know that I didn't get it done the first time. I'd like another chance."

Considering Jason Garrett's apparent apprenticeship and Campo's dubious distinctions, it's unlikely.

But, then again, we never thought Dave Campo would be back in Dallas.

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