Luther Campbell is not the first man you'd guess would wind up on a high school football sideline. The former longtime rapper known as "Uncle Luke" of the equally reviled and revered group 2 Live Crew is most famous for sexually gratuitous lyrics on Tipper Gore-attacked smash hits from the '90s like "Me So Horny," and a brief career as a producer in the porn industry after his music career ended. But he has always harbored a passion for football. That's what occasionally finds Campbell at University of Miami games, and what eventually led to his current position at nationally ranked Miami Central (Fla.) High, where Campbell is perhaps the most surprising linebackers coach in the country.
That's right, Uncle Luke -- who has also gone by the rap pseudonym Luke Skyywalker -- is now known simply as Coach Luke, an assistant coach and youth football league operator in his late 40s who claims to have left his raunchy entertainer and porn impresario past behind him.
"I'm happy and proud of what we accomplished but that part of my life is over," Campbell told the Miami Herald's Linda Robertson. "The entertainer -- I left him on stage. [...] The garbage man picks up the trash but he doesn't bring the maggots home. [...] I don't bring my music career to football practice. If Hugh Hefner was out here coaching, he wouldn't bring his Playboy bunnies. [...]
"I don't tolerate cursing or the N word," he said. "I tell them, ‘Don't ever disrespect a girl because that makes you less than a man.' And ‘Pick the girl who is responsible, not the one with Fs on her report card. Easy to get in, hard to get out. I've lived that life.'"
While it might seem a stretch for a man who was once best known for parading around with a gaggle of thonged women in public -- a man so controversial his interview on NPR's Diane Rehm show almost led sponsors to pull all funding from the program -- to emerge as a deserving teenage role model, Campbell's cohorts on the Miami Central coaching staff said he deserves plenty of credit for helping mold the team's defense into a powerful unit that has backboned the team's rise up the RivalsHigh 100.
"He knows football," Miami Central coach Telly Lockette told the Herald. "We call him the information man.
"[The players] relate to Luther very well. We joke with him about his past, but, you know, everybody deserves a chance to grow up. He's like a father figure to these boys. He understands the streets and how they're trying to find their way."
Campbell insists that his entertainer persona only comes out for occasional events, most recently a VH1 Hip Hop Honors show, where he was being recognized as a producer who helped develop Southern rap music. The rest of the time, Campbell is simply Coach Luke, a man with a lawyer wife, a house in the Miami suburbs and a 17-month-old son named Blake, who takes up most of his time when he's not on a football field. The one-time rapper said people are amazed to hear that he now golfs in the Miami suburbs, and joke that he lives the life of the Huxtables of Cosby show fame.
Perhaps most impressively, those close to the Central program insist Campbell's family extends beyond his wife and child to the rest of the school's football program at large. The players who know Campbell best are quick to echo that claim, perhaps none more directly than Central receiver C.J. Gaines.
"He opens his house up whenever we need a break from the streets for a night or two, and he'll feed us, help us with homework," Gaines said. "He says, ‘Make your mother proud. Think about your future.'"
Gaines has heard Campbell's music but isn't much of a fan. That was back in the day.
"I don't see him as a rapper," Gaines said. "I see him as a father."