Christian Campbell Shining at the Senior Bowl
MOBILE, Al. – Christian Campbell has been turning heads for the past week in his home state of Alabama at the Senior Bowl, where the nation’s top collegiate senior football players come to compete and practice in front of about 1,200 NFL scouts and executives.
The game and all practices the week prior, take place in Mobile, Alabama which is about 250 miles down the road from Campbell’s hometown in Phoenix City.
“I used to watch these games and these practices all the time,” Campbell said. “That was my goal too to make it to the senior bowl and I’m just very thankful being here. Like I said I’m just blessed to be here.”
The corner finally got his chance to start this season for Penn State after three years of working his way on the field in special teams and nickel packages. He was a part of a veteran secondary that started four seniors and brought junior Amani Oruwariye in as a third corner. Corner Grant Haley participated in the East-West Shrine Game, and safety Troy Apke won the MVP of the NFL PA Collegiate Bowl. Safety Marcus Allen joins Campbell at the Senior Bowl along with Wide Receiver Dae’Sean Hamilton and Tight End Mike Gesicki.
Entering the week Campbell was the least hyped of the four Penn State prospects in the Senior Bowl, with some wondering why he got invited over fellow starting corner Grant Haley. Campbell did not always have the stats or big plays during his Penn State career, and was at the time overlooked even by Penn State fans, but has been a star for the past week earning universal praise from scouts, coaches and teammates.
“I think I did excellent. My goal was to get better each day and every day. I feel like I achieved that goal. I’ve just got to keep getting better,” Campbell said.
Campbell was all over social media after day one when he intercepted a pass from Nebraska cornerback Tanner Lee and has had his highlights constantly retweeted from fans and teammates like Saquon Barkley.
After being at times overshadowed by these same teammates at Penn State, Campbell is finally stepping out of the shade, and into the spotlight. He was named the Defensive Back of the Week by Pro Football Focus, and has been called an “eraser” on twitter and is hitting his stride at the right time.
“It means a lot. It shows you’re working hard. It just means a lot and I’ve achieved my goals,” Campbell said. “I set goals before I do a task and now I’ve achieved that task and it’s very honorable to be in that category and I feel very humbled just being here. I’m just blessed.”
With the extra attention also comes more people all trying to help and assist in any way he can. In the past week, Campbell has heard lots of advice from many scouts and coaches but one piece really resonated with him and how he can stand out more on the field.
“Be confident and let it out more. I’m a quiet chill guy, and sometimes I am that way on the field too because that’s just my personality but I feel I’m a great corner and sometimes you’ve just got to let loose and show your confidence and that was some advice I took from this week,” Campbell said.
Campbell was originally targeted by NFL scouts because of his height and length on the outside, measuring at 6 feet 1 inch and 191 pounds. He says he watches similarly sized corners all the time in the NFL.
“I used to watch Richard Sherman a lot and now I’m liking Jalen Ramsey. He’s got a lot of confidence and uses his feet and uses his hands a lot,” Campbell said. “I feel like I’m that type of corner when I’m in man coverage, so I model my game after those two and watch them a lot.”
The Senior Bowl is one of the most scouted events leading up to the NFL Draft and teams are able to use it get information on player’s skills, and their personality. The individual interviews with players can become as important, if not more, than the product on the field Saturday.
When asked how he would answer an NFL scout who asks about his strengths, the answer was quick and simple for Campbell.
“My physicality and my man coverage. I’m somebody who can press at the line and just play off,” Campbell said. “I’m somebody that’s a tall corner that can move his feet and flip his hips and be all over the field and in special teams. So those are my biggest strengths with being a physical cornerback.”
Players can be asked any number of questions such as who they live with, or to name 50 ways to use a paperclip, but Campbell doesn’t over think them. His mindset, constant smile and appreciation for the moment might be what sets him apart from other prospects.
“You can never go wrong just being yourself. If you try to be somebody else, then things may go wrong,” Campbell said. “I always try to be myself and that was my goal. Tunnel vision this week with no distractions.”
Brian McLaughlin is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.