Linebacker Caleb Campbell spent the last seven weeks of the 2011 season on the Chiefs practice squad, but this isn’t his first tour of duty in the NFL or elsewhere.
Campbell was taken by Detroit in the seventh round of the 2008 draft out of Army, where he started 38 games as a safety and recorded 307 tackles, ninth in West Point history.
Campbell was set to sign with the Lions under the U.S. Military’s Alternative Service Option which had allowed graduates of the service academies to play pro sports right away, but on July 22, 2008, a day before training camp opened, the regulations were changed and Campbell was immediately required to serve two years of active duty in the U.S. Army.
He served two years as a platoon leader in Fort Sill, Okla., preparing privates to get ready for combat before rejoining the Lions late in 2010 and appearing in three games. He spent 2011 on the practice squads of the Colts and Chiefs.
If Campbell, 6-2, 237 pounds, makes the team, it will have to be because of his play on special teams and overall hustle as a player. Life in the military has helped him cope with frustrations in trying to make an NFL team.
Question: What keeps you going at age 27 trying to make an NFL team?
“When you have that realization that you’ve been blessed with some gifts and abilities and some talents, and they’re not for you, but to benefit the people around you … I’ve been given a platform and intend to use this platform for as long as I can.”
Q: What will allow you to make the Chiefs roster this year?
“Consistency. I kind of have a good play here and there, and then there’s some plays where it just doesn’t happen. If I can find that level of consistency, it will be all right. After a while, it’s definitely a mental game, and it starts toying with your mind and your thoughts and it has a large impact on your performance.”
Q: How do you react to people who liken playing in the NFL as going into battle?
A: “We have a quote when we walk into the West Point football field and it says, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days and other fields will bear the fruits of victory.” Meaning … the seeds that you sow while playing this game, the intrinsic qualities that it takes to play this game, run parallel with other fields of battle on other days. There are some striking similarities. Obviously it’s not a life and death situation and I’ll never take anything away from the men and women who protect our country, but there are a lot of parallels.”