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NFL to NCAA: Gamecocks Special Teams Under Joe DeCamillis

Gamecocks Special Teams DeCamillis

In a landscape where more and more college football coaches are expected to leave for professional football, Shane Beamer played an Uno Reverse card and brought an NFL coaching veteran into the college ranks. The Gamecocks head coach has made a habit of pulling guys from the NFL. New Gamecocks Special Teams Coordinator, Joe DeCamillis, is the second career NFL coach hired as a coordinator in Columbia. Last season, Beamer brought in Dowell Loggains and experienced success. With the “Beamer Ball” legacy putting an emphasis on special teams, DeCamillis fits the bill after Pete Lembo departed to become the head coach at Buffalo. 

DeCamillis spent his entire career in the NFL before dipping his toe in the college waters. From 1991-2022, DeCamillis was on NFL staffs working with special teams. Beginning in 1993, he was a special teams coordinator. DeCamillis is a two-time Super Bowl champion (Denver in 2015 and the LA Rams in 2021). However, he had mixed success in keeping jobs in the NFL. He found early success and was even retained in Atlanta after a head coaching change. However, later in his career, he was dismissed a couple of times. Ultimately, after his time with the LA Rams ended in 2022, DeCamillis served in an off-the-field role for Steve Sarkisian at Texas in 2023. Given the opportunity, Beamer brought him to Columbia to fill the role he knows best. 

It Starts With Toughness

Some of the best coaches are those who do not have a history of playing football at a high level. NFL greats like Bill Belichick and, most recent Super Bowl champ, Andy Reid found great success without ever playing professional football. Jedd Fisch, who led Arizona to surprising success in 2023 and was subsequently hired as the head coach of the Washington Huskies never even played in college. Similarly, DeCamillis never played football at the collegiate level. Instead, he placed eighth nationally and earned All-American honors as a wrestler at the University of Wyoming. Wrestling is a mixture of toughness and intellect, much like football. The difference, of course, is that wrestling is a solo, one-on-one endeavor, and football is the ultimate team sport. 

South Carolina special teams under Lembo found wrinkles and tendencies that brought about team victories, specifically in 2022. DeCamillis will have a similar opportunity to use his entire workday to study and break apart the intricacies of opponents on special teams. Over three decades of experience will certainly be helpful. But the innate mindset of a wrestler, man to man in the circle against his opponent, also translates well to the battles that must be won on the field. DeCamillis brings the killer instinct to spot an opponent’s weakness and quickly expose it.

All In The Family

How does a college wrestler enter into the NFL coaching profession at the age of 26? For DeCamillis, the answer was simple: Marriage. He is married to the daughter of former Gamecock quarterback Dan Reeves. Reeves is a member of the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, having started three seasons at quarterback while also playing on the baseball team. He is, of course, known more for his NFL coaching career where he was a head coach from 1981 through 2003. Most notably, Reeves led the Denver Broncos to three Super Bowl appearances. He passed away in 2022. 

DeCamillis began his NFL career working as an administrative assistant in Denver under Reeves. Then, he was hired as a special teams assistant for the New York Giants. While DeCamillis spent some time coaching under this father-in-law, he made his career and was valued by many NFL coaches for over 30 years. He turned down Reeves’ job offer twice before being coerced to accept the position. He wanted to earn everything he was given. Considering Reeves’s background with the Gamecocks, DeCamillis already has connectivity with the fanbase and an understanding of SEC that will enhance his start as special teams coordinator.

The Unknown

The biggest question mark when bringing an NFL coach into the college ranks is recruiting. Now, more than ever, college coaching is a 365-day job. Lembo was one of the strongest recruiters on the staff, so DeCamillis has big shoes to fill. The hope that Gamecock fans have is in Beamer’s track record hiring former NFL guys. Even Marcus Satterfield, who failed on the field as a coordinator, proved to recruit at a high level and just landed Dylan Raiola at Nebraska. Current staff members like Loggains and Sterling Lucas (Edge), as well as former coaches like Jody Wright, who is now the head coach at Murray State, proved to be some of the strongest recruiters that Beamer has hired. Sometimes experience is not everything. Relational skills and football IQ are what make the difference.

In 2022, Rams head coach Sean McVay said of DeCamillis, “Guys get better and they’re very receptive to him.” He went on to say that DeCamillis’ ability to “command a room” had been very helpful to him personally. The resumé is clear. Now DeCamillis gets a chance to prove it on the field as the Special Teams Coordinator for the Gamecocks.

The Tip of the Spear

During his time with the Rams, DeCamillis noted a key phrase that resonated with the special teams’ unit, “tip of the spear.” This phrase is a military reference borrowed from the Marines who are first into battle. This unit, specifically, is highly trained and sent out with the mission of making the first impact. Their job is one of the most vital to the success of the mission. DeCamillis brought the phrase to his special teams room to instill the importance of this phase of the game.

The special teams unit is the first on the field for every football game. They play a crucial role in setting up the offense and/or defense for success throughout the game. They have opportunities to score, to prevent scoring, and to gain a calculated advantage. Though his work on the field in college football is yet to be seen, the mentality that DeCamillis brings to the Gamecocks’ special teams unit is a winning outlook. 

Click here for more on DeCamillis and his role with LA Rams.


Gamecocks Special Teams DeCamillis
Photo courtesy: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


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