The Bucs Campbell and Hecklinski Families
By Wayne Wood
It was November 8, 1968, as the 8-0 Berry Bucs football team under 1st-year head coach Bob Finley were hosting the 6-2 Shades Valley Mounties led by 2nd-year head coach Bud Bishop. Finley and Bishop had served together as Buc assistant coaches in 1964 & 1965 under Coach Larry Wilson. Finley had revived the program after 2 losing seasons working with an undefeated record at this point.
However, the Mounties had a fine team. On defense was a blond curly-haired senior safety named Mike Campbell. This particular night he played the best game of his career in recovering a fumble, intercepting a key pass and making several key tackles in helping lead the Mounties to a 21-6 win over the Bucs.
The Bucs played the Mounties the next week at Legion Field in the annual Dental Clinic Game and gained a measure of revenge in a 27-15 win. Yet the next week, the Bucs went to Montgomery and lost to Sidney Lanier in the 1st round of the state playoffs.
Thirty years later in 1988, Mike Campbell and his young family had already lived in the Bluff Park community of Hoover for quite some time. He had a 9th grade son, Josh, playing for Coach Finley at Berry. Finley brought up that 1968 game several time bragging on Mike and comparing him to his young, blond curly haired son. He was obviously grateful to have a Campbell on his team and not having to play against him.
After graduating from Shades Valley in 1969, Mike attended the University of Alabama/Tuscaloosa where he graduated in 1973. During this time, he met Sarah Page (a 1969 graduate of Dothan High in Alabama) and they eventually married. In 1974, they had their son Josh and in 1979 a daughter, Casey, was born.
In 1986, Josh was a 7th grader at Simmons Jr. High (now Middle) School, where he played football and basketball as well as little league baseball. I had Josh in my Social Studies class and remember seeing his dad, mother (who was pregnant with twins) and little sister Casey at our football and basketball games. The twins (Abby and Andrew) were born during the holiday break on January 1, 1987.
Josh was a fine athlete who played QB and safety on the football team and point guard in basketball. By his 8th grade year, it was a common sight to see all 6 of the Campbell Family and their grandparents at athletic events.
As mentioned before before, Josh was a Berry Buc freshman in 1988. That same year, Don and Donna Hecklinski moved their family from South Bend, Indiana to Hoover. They had 3 daughters (Amy, Alison & Ann) and a son, Al. You might say Triple AAA girls and one A boy.
Josh was involved in football, basketball and baseball. He won the Bandit award in football and graduated in 1992. Amy Hecklinski was a year behind Josh graduating in 1993. She participated in volleyball and basketball her 9th grade year and softball all 4 years signing a college scholarship with Miami of Ohio. Alison graduated in 1995 yet didn’t play sports. Ann graduated from Hoover in 2001. She played JV basketball yet softball was also her main sport being a part of two state title teams in 1998 and 2001.
Al played football (name a captain his senior year) and baseball (named MVP) and was selected senior Athlete at Hoover in 1998 when he graduated. He signed with UAB baseball yet transferred to the University of Alabama/Tuscaloosa to finish out his college career.
I remember seeing Casey quite often at Josh’s games, both at Simmons and sometimes later at Berry. I gave her a nickname, “Joshette.” All the Campbells (parents & kids) had blond hair as did the Hecklinski kids as I look back on it, Many of their kids did as well. The following is part of a story Casey wrote for the Finley book some years ago regarding her remembrances of Bob Finley.
“I first met Coach Finley when I was 8 years old. My older brother, Josh, played football, basketball and baseball at Berry. I was always at his sporting events. At his basketball games, I would always go shoot the basketball during halftime. The girls’ basketball games have been always before the boys’ game. That meant that Coach Finley had been always around. Every time I was shooting during halftime, Coach Finley would come up to me and encourage me to keep playing basketball and he would always give me a tip or two.”
“One day, instead of coming on the court to see me, he called me into his office. In there he said, ‘I want you to have one of these.’ It was an extra small girls’ varsity basketball warm-up suit. It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. He was recruiting me to play for him in 5 years. From that day on, I wanted to play basketball for Coach Finley. I still have the warm-up suit and pull it out every once in a while.”
“After that, I went on to play in the Hoover Recreation leagues, Simmons Middle School and then my big day came–I was a freshman starting on the girls’ varsity basketball team at W.A. Berry High School in 1993-94 for the one and only Coach Bob Finley.”
“My freshman year and the year following summer of 1994 with him are unforgettable. I, like so many others, was so fortunate to have had him in my life. As one of the last ones to be coached by Coach Finley, I experienced the class, he demonstrated, then integrity, he coached with, the teamwork he created and the sportsmanship he taught his player. Saying goodbye to him as he passed away that year was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, although I know he is in a great place, watching over all his family, friends and past players.”
“I continued my basketball career at Hoover High School under Coach Ron Jones and Coach Eddie Jones, who did a great job carrying on Coach Finley’s tradition. My senior year, at the Bob Finley Classic in December of 1996, I received the biggest honor one can receive, The Bob Finley Award! I am so blessed to have had such an inspiration as Coach Finley in my life.”
I did the score book for the girls basketball team for several years during that time in which Casey played. I especially remember her little sister, Abby, traveling to almost every away game we went on along with all the home games. Whether it bounces a basketball on the court at halftime or out in the lobby, Abby was there. She must have bounced that ball a billion times or more!
Casey graduated from Hoover in 1997 being named the top girl athlete at Hoover along Brock Nutter being named the boy top athlete. Brock went on to have a fine football career at QB at Troy, where he met his future wife, Jamie Mitchell (who was once named Mrs. Alabama a few years ago). Jamie’s brother later married Abby Campbell. The Nutters have 3 children: Mitchell, Kaylynn and North. Casey won 4 letters in basketball and 4 in softball (winning a state title in 1997 with a 63-1 record).
The Campbell twins (Abby & Andrew) followed in their siblings athletic footsteps, Andrew played football and baseball while Abby played basketball and softball. By the time they arrived at Hoover High, the Campbells were a household name. During her basketball career, Abby reached the 1000 point club and made the Over the Mountain team. She was part of the 3 state title team in softball. The twins graduated from Hoover in 2005. Abby went to the University of Mobile on a basketball/softball scholarship where she graduated. Andrew served in the Marines from 2007-2011 being stationed in Hawaii and once serving in Afghanistan.
Josh Campbell married his high school sweetheart from Berry (Shelly Hicks). Their children are all Bucs as well. Josh Junior graduated from Hoover in 2013. He played baseball, basketball & football (was the starting senior safety on the 15-0 state title team) and signed a baseball with Shelton State. Scout, graduated in 2017 and now attends the University of Alabama/Tuscaloosa. She played softball and basketball in middle school and JV basketball at Hoover, Saralyn graduated in 2018 and now goes to UAB. She played softball in middle school and was a cheerleader and ran cross-country at Hoover. Jack is a current freshman at Hoover where he plays baseball and football. Twins Ava and Ian are 6th graders at Bumpus. Ava is going to be a cheerleader for the Bucs while Ian plays football, baseball and basketball.
As mentioned, Abby married James Mitchell Jr and have two children, Tripp in kindergarten and 3 year old Sawyer. The Hecklinski girls are all married with children living in various places.
We will finish with a final statement from Casey giving her perspective on raising 5 kids who are all athletes.
“First off, let me just say that Al and I feel like the luckiest people in the world. We have been blessed with 5 beautiful children. Campbell-who is a freshman at Hoover High and is involved in volleyball, JV basketball and varsity softball. Next is Carolyne-who is an 8th grader at Simmons and involved with cheerleading, pole vaulting in track, basketball and softball.”
“Then there is Finn (who is named after Coach Finley) who participates in football, basketball and baseball along with his little brother Boone. And last, but not least, is Riggs (who isn’t quite old enough yet-thank goodness!)”
“It hasn’t been easy getting everyone to their practices and games, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Al coaches the kids in most of their sports and I am their biggest fan–racing from game to game on most days. We have an awesome village that helps us make it all work and for that, we are very thankful.”
“So many life lessons and friendships develop through sports. Glad our kids have an opportunity to be a part of so many! Al and I know that one day the kids will be grown and we will miss it all so much–the games, the practices, the car rides, the talks about the games and so much more. We are cherishing every minute of it!”
Seeing families like these and other in Hoover through 4 decades means so much to me personally. I imagine that I might have to write a book in about 10 or so years about Bucs like this!
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haired senior safety named