It hasn’t sank in yet for Chris Campbell
The Marshal High School graduate is used to winning college football championships. He won two in his junior and senior year while at Eastern Illinois University. But winning Super Bowl XLV was quite different. Besides, it was just last year when the 24-year-old Green Bay Packers rookie watched the game like everybody else on TV.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet, I guess, until I get the ring,” the West Side native said in an exclusive interview with Austin Weekly News.
He admits, though, the experience is humbling – to win the Super Bowl in his first year in the NFL.
“It an incredible feat because a lot of people don’t have an opportunity to make it there,” said the 6 foot 5, 320-pound lineman, explaining that some NFL players have been in the league 16 years without a Super Bowl win. “That is the most respect I’m giving it right now, because it’s so hard to get there.”
As a rookie, Campbell’s contribution to the team’s success came off the field as a practice squad player, helping his teammates with their snaps and timing.
“I made my own contribution to the team being on the practice squad,” Campbell said.
But his journey to the Super Bowl began on a West Side pee-wee football league. The sport kept him off the streets and physically fit. But his ability caught the eye of former Marshall High School football coach, Ben Ward. Although encouraged to join the varsity team in his freshman year, Campbell opted for junior varsity.
The move, he recalled, allowed him to get acquainted to the game’s speed and to balance his schoolwork. His strategy worked. At a 2004 football training camp, two Chicago Bears players, Tommie Harris and Charles “Peanut” Tillman, recognized Campbell’s ability as “raw talent” to make it in the NFL.
“(Harris) was telling me this as a junior in high school, and I didn’t think much of it,” admits Campbell, who, unlike most black youth, didn’t dream of playing in the NFL. He wanted to be a lawyer.
“I wasn’t focused on athletics as my key to success. The key to my success has always been my education,” Campbell said.
His success came off the field too. As captain of Marshall’s debate team, he won several awards, including outstanding oratorical skills in 2003, and he led his team to several tournaments. Campbell also dabbled in wresting and volleyball.
In his senior year, several colleges recruited him to play football. But he opted for the one school that didn’t: Eastern. He joined the team as a walk-on. There, he helped his team win the Ohio Valley Conference and then made the NCAA playoffs in his senior year.
Campbell’s ability caught the attention of an NFL agent. Soon after, Campbell was trying out for several NFL teams, hoping to be selected in the 2010 draft.
“I didn’t get the call that I wanted to get,” he said.
But his agent began fielding teams and Green Bay eventually fit the bill. He signed as an un-drafted free agent in April 2010, and hopes to make the team’s 53 man rooster next season.