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Campbell is first when it counts
By WALTER VILLA, Times Correspondent
Published September 7, 2007
MIAMI - Defensive end Calais Campbell is the last player to leave the University of Miami locker room, but when he does emerge, he has a big smile and a lot to say.
"I think a lot - I guess you can call it meditating," said Campbell, who was named first-team All-ACC as a sophomore last season. "That's why I'm usually the last player to take a shower."
Campbell is first when it counts, however. Last season, he led the ACC with 20.5 tackles for loss, including 10.5 sacks.
This Saturday, he plans on being the first to arrive in the Oklahoma backfield as the unranked Hurricanes visit the No. 5 Sooners at noon.
Last week, the Sooners passed for 403 yards in a 79-10 rout over North Texas. But the Sooners have surely seen what Campbell can do, too.
In a 31-3 win over Marshall on Saturday, Campbell celebrated his 21st birthday by grabbing his first career interception and leading a defense that recorded four turnovers and six sacks.
"At 6-8 and 280 pounds, it's hard to pass over him," said Clint Hurtt, the Canes' defensive-line coach. "Against the run, he is far better now than he was last year. He is taking pride in being the complete player. I think his stats will go way up this year."
That's a scary thought for quarterbacks. Just ask Marshall's Bernard Morris, who thought he could loft a pass over Campbell.
"I read the screen, I judged where I thought it was going to come down and just got it at its highest point," said Campbell, who was Miami's MVP last season. "Good things usually happen on my birthday, so that was a nice little gift."
In a way, Campbell had been training for that interception for years. He was a star basketball player in high school, leading the state of Colorado in rebounds with 16 per game while also averaging 22.7 points. In football, he doubled as a tight end, turning two screen passes into long touchdowns - 68 and 72 yards, respectively.
Campbell said he thought about playing basketball at UM.
"I decided I wanted to try to be the best I could be at football," Campbell said. "That's my first love. But I do miss basketball."
Campbell still dreams about tight end, too. He has repeatedly asked UM coaches to allow him to play both ways - to no avail.
But even still, it's not a bad life for Campbell. He is one of the biggest jokers on the team, recently switching jerseys with defensive tackle Teraz McCray for a practice. McCray is 7 inches shorter and 5 pounds heavier, making the switch comical.
Campbell is also a team leader, presenting first-year coach Randy Shannon with a game ball after beating Marshall. And Campbell promised to let his hair grow until UM won a sixth national title or he gets drafted.
"(Teammates) Eric Moncur, Joe Joseph, Chris Zellner and myself made that pact," said Campbell, who has not cut his hair in 14 months. "But they all backed out for different reasons - mostly because of their girlfriends."
Another role Campbell plays on the team is that of big brother. Jared Campbell, the youngest of six brothers, including five who play football, is a freshman safety on the team.
"Calais gives me advice on everything - school, football, teachers," Jared said. "Even how to talk to women. Calais knows about everything."
Just ask his teachers. Campbell is set to graduate in December with a major in sociology and a minor in advertising.
"I have a lot of plans," he said. "I want to own an advertising agency, and I want to start a foundation to help kids in urban areas go to college."
All that will have to wait, of course. Campbell has a prosperous future in football. He was rumored to be a first-round NFL draft prospect last season, but he opted to return to school.
"The thought (of turning pro) crossed my mind," he said. "But I have two years of eligibility left, and I just want to enjoy my college career. I bleed orange and green. It's going to be hard to leave here even when I have to go."