|Miami defensive end Calais Campbell has sights set on big 2007 season|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 23 August 2007 11:52|
When Miami's star defensive end removes his helmet and the stretchy skull cap that's underneath, out comes the reminder of a promise. It's hair, darting in all directions and standing four inches off his scalp to make him seem even taller.
``It's too long,'' Campbell says.
Not that it matters.
Campbell won't get his locks shorn until his Hurricanes win a championship. He made that pledge with a few teammates a year ago; they've all abandoned that vow, some out of vanity, others because girlfriends complained.
But Campbell stands alone - a long-haired giant who just might be the nation's best at his position.
``He's an unbelievable football player,'' Miami defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said. ``He's a special person, too. Hopefully, as things take their course this year, he'll go down as one of the top guys to ever play the position here. He could be one of the best players we've ever had.''
He might already fit that description.
No returning major-college player had more tackles for loss last season than Campbell's 20 1/2. He was one of eight Division I-A underclassmen to record more than 10 sacks. After netting just 2 1/2 sacks in his 14 college games, he had nine in a seven-game stretch midway through the 2006 campaign.
``My mind-set is that I'm the reason we're going to win every game,'' Campbell said. ``And if everyone feels exactly the same way, then how can we lose?''
NFL draftniks say Campbell will be a top-10 pick next spring - assuming he skips his final season of eligibility.
For one of eight children who grew up poor in Colorado, the lure of pro money is tough to ignore.
``It's definitely amazing,'' Campbell said. ``But if we pull off the Cinderella story, who knows, I might want to come back and do it again like Florida did in basketball. I think I would. I really do. I bleed orange and green. It'd be so hard for me to leave.''
His definition of a Cinderella story?
That's what Campbell shouts at teammates in practices and the weight room. It's a nod to the site of this season's Bowl Championship Series national title game, seemingly a long shot for the unranked 'Canes.
Campbell thinks otherwise.
``It's in everybody's minds,'' Campbell said. ``So when we're running and we're tired and I yell it, hopefully that just makes everyone realize what we're working for. You've got to have a vision. If you don't, you have nothing to play for. My dad always told me, you want something, find a way to get it.''
He was 60 pounds lighter when he signed with the Hurricanes and had a sleek enough body that Miami originally thought he could prove helpful at tight end.
But his true passion was defense, so he hit the weights. And his transformation into a star began.
``It's been a process,'' Miami strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey said. ``What happened was his coordination finally caught up with his body. Because he's added so much mass and done it the right way and stayed lean, you can see why he's so productive out there on the football field.''
Swasey said Campbell's numbers - squats over 550 pounds, power-cleaning over 330, all with a 37-inch vertical leap - are off the charts.
Campbell is setting an example for every other Miami player, a fact not lost on his little brother. Jared Campbell is a freshman, fighting for playing time in the Hurricanes' secondary.
``I want to do what he's done,'' said Jared Campbell, one of six brothers, all of whom became football players. ``I don't want to just be 'Calais' little brother.' I want to prove myself.''
With Campbell and safety Kenny Phillips - another junior who already ranks highly on NFL mock draft boards - Miami's defense should again be the Hurricanes' strength. The Hurricanes gave up 255.5 yards per game last year, seventh-best in the nation, yet finished 7-6 overall.
Campbell said a six-loss season simply won't happen.
``See, Calais has character,'' Swasey said. ``He's very positive, always has been. Well-mannered, very respectful, and it's good to see guys like that get the reputation that he has. Everybody is a Calais fan because of his personality, and that's going to take him a long, long way.''