Campbell took long road to play linebacker for Gophers

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2013 - 12:34 AM

First no Div.-I football teams wanted De’Vondre Campbell. Then Tennessee, Texas and Kansas State thought they had him. He’s now turning heads at the U.

 

Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said almost every visitor to preseason practice this year — from fans to scouts to Big Ten analysts — had the same question: “Who’s No. 26?” ¶ All eyes were drawn to redshirt sophomore De’Vondre Campbell, who is taller than most linebackers at 6-5, and faster than almost everyone.

 

How fast? In 2011, Campbell finished seventh in the 200-meter dash at the Florida state high school track meet. His time (22.03 seconds) would have won that year’s Minnesota big-school state championship.

Kill compares Campbell to Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, in terms of raw athletic ability and NFL potential. Campbell is far from a finished product, but he made eight tackles in last Saturday’s victory at New Mexico State to give him 11 in two games this year.

The Gophers plucked Campbell out of Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College this February after he strongly considered offers from Tennessee, Texas and Kansas State.

“He’s a tremendous kid, he has a tremendous work ethic,” Kill said. “We’re fortunate we’ve got him for three years.”

Campbell kept pretty quiet when he first got to the Minnesota campus this summer, but his personality is starting to emerge. His Twitter handle is @Came_along_way, and he’s not shy about expressing his desire to prove naysayers wrong.

On Tuesday, he tweeted, “Everybody been sleeping on my football ability since Cypress days they better wake up and realize I do this.”

Campbell played for a struggling football program at Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers, Fla. His coach, Mike Thornton, put him at defensive end. Campbell didn’t receive any Division-I scholarship offers and didn’t get his junior college offer until a Hutchinson coach watched him play in a local all-star game.

In that game, Campbell teamed with Derrick Wells, a defensive back from Lehigh Acres, Fla., who headed directly to the Gophers.

“I played against a lot of good players in high school, some I felt I was actually better than,” Campbell said. “But I kind of felt it was just the school that I went to. We didn’t get a lot of recognition, so it’s kind of hard to get recruited. It made me hungry because I knew how good I really was.”

Thornton, who has since become the coach at Tampa Riverview High School, said Campbell had to go the junior college route because of grades.

“He was always a pleasure to be around,” Thornton said. “We never had any issues with his attitude or coachability. What happened with him was exactly what I thought would happen. A big-time junior college found him, and he wound up in a big-time conference.”

Campbell redshirted his freshman year at Hutchinson after suffering a concussion. One of his good friends and teammates that year was wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who transferred to Tennessee in 2012 before becoming a first-round pick for the Vikings.

Last year, Campbell was the one with his pick of Division-I offers after making 83 tackles. The same Hutchinson coach who recruited Campbell out of high school, Brandon Staley, had left to join Derek Dooley’s staff at Tennessee.

Campbell gave the Vols a verbal commitment, but backed out after the school fired Dooley and his entire staff. Various reports later had Campbell committing to Texas and then Kansas State, so it was quite a surprise on National Signing Day (Feb. 6), when Campbell signed to play for the Gophers.

“I thought I was going to go to K-State, but Coach Kill and [Gophers linebackers coach Bill] Miller were honest with me from Day 1,” Campbell said. “[Coaches from other schools] fed me all the hype, like, ‘You’re coming in, you’re going to start.’

“Coach Kill and Coach Miller never said I was going to start. They said I was going to have to work my way up, and that’s what I wanted. I don’t want anything to be easy because nothing is easy in life.”

Campbell said he played last season at 210 pounds, but now that he’s eating at Minnesota’s training table, he has grown to 225. His goal is to weigh 240-245 by the start of spring practice.

He’s already a good open-field tackler, with the speed to cover plenty of ground, and the extra weight should help him shed blockers.

“I know I’m raw,” Campbell said. “I try to work on it. The main thing I know I struggle at is the run game, so I try to approach every day and get better and better.”

If Campbell keeps developing the way the Gophers hope, they have little doubt No. 26 will make a name for himself.

  • related content

  • Video: De'Vondre Campbell making a good impression

    Wednesday September 11, 2013

    Gophers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell talks about making eight tackles in last Saturday's win at New Mexico State.

  • Running back Kirkwood probably won't play Saturday for Gophers

    Thursday September 12, 2013

    Kirkwood, who led the Gophers with 926 rushing yards last season, sprained his right ankle in this year’s season opener...

  • Gopher linebacker De'Vondre Campbell keeps his eye on the prize Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium where he and the Gophers defeated the Aggies of New Mexico State University 44-21.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close