UM still mourning loss of ‘a beautiful kid'

The elation with which the University of Miami football team celebrated just last month after winning a national championship has been unexpectedly swept away. Replaced by sorrow, shock and sadness after losing one of their own.

Teammates, coaches and friends are still in a somber mood and loss for words after the one-car accident that took the life of Hurricanes senior linebacker Chris Campbell. Campbell, 21, from Mt. Pleasant, Texas, was killed when the car he was driving slammed into a tree at the intersection of Biltmore Drive and Blue Road, near the UM campus Saturday morning at around 4 a.m..

Campbell's sudden death was a surprise to everybody who knew the quiet and hard-working kid who blossomed last season and became a key component of the Hurricanes defense. But Campbell was more than just a solid contributor on the football field.

He was a treasure off it as well.

"He was just a beautiful kid," said UM offensive-line coach Art Kehoe. "Its unthinkable that someone like Chris could have his life cut short like that. You just realize how precious life is and how lucky we are to have each other."

Although the Hurricanes will attempt to put the tragedy pass them, nothing seems too important right know, said University of Miami head coach Larry Coker, who delivered the fateful news to a lot of his players in person.

"Emotionally, right now the future doesn't seem to important. We are going to get through this," said Coker during a Saturday press conference on the campus. "We are going to press on and do it the right way in respect to Chris and his family." "Our hearts go out to Chris' family at this time. Chris' death is a tremendous tragedy and a terrible loss for our football family. On behalf of the entire Miami football program, I'd like to express our deepest sympathies and our condolences to his family."

Offensive lineman Ed Wilkins could not believe what he was hearing when Kehoe called him early Saturday morning to tell him about Campbell. Wilkins had seen Campbell about seven hours before in Coconut Grove.

"I can't believe he's gone," said Wilkins. "Chris was great to be around and just a excellent human being. When coach called I just can't believe what he was saying."

Offensive lineman Joaquin Gonzalez, who had been with Campbell several days before, also was blind-sided by Campbell's passing. It was Brett Romberg, another teammate, who called Gonzalez early Saturday with the details.

"I was just hanging out with Chris," said Gonzalez. "I was angry and felt helpless." UM Athletic Director Paul Dee and President Donna Shalala also expressed their warm-felt thoughts on Campbell.

"Chris was a wonderful young man. His death is a tragedy for our entire community," said Shalala. Said Dee: "The Hurricane athletic department mourns Chris' passing. He was an exceptional young man. Chris and his family are in our thoughts and in our prayers."

Campbell was remembered at several athletic events last weekend on the campus. A moment of silence was held Saturday at Mark Light Stadium before the start of the Miami-Minnesota game. Later that same night, another moment of silence was observed before the women's basketball game at the Knight Sports Complex between UM-FIU.

Campbell, a starter at strongside linebacker since midway through the 1999 season, missed the Hurricanes 37-14 victory over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl Jan. 3 with a left knee infection that required minor surgery. Despite the setback, he finished third on the team with 68 tackles and was training in preparation for the NFL draft.

Campbell started 41 games at UM and recorded 221 tackles with six sacks. As a junior in 2000, Campbell ranked fourth on the team with 79 tackles and tied for the team lead with four sacks. In 1999, Campbell started the final eight games of the season following an injury to Michael Smith. It was during that season that he recorded a career-high 13 tackles in a 31-28 victory over Boston College. As a freshman in 1998 Campbell appeared in all 11 games, recording 19 tackles.

The car crash was the third in less than a year involving Hurricane football players. Last May, Jermell Weaver was behind the wheel during an accident that claimed the life of the mother of Weaver's girlfriend. Several weeks before the start of training camp, former UM players Clint Hurtt and Clinton Portis, along with junior fullback Jarrett Payton, were involved in a one-car accident on I-95, but all escaped with minor injuries.

Campbell is survived by his father William Searcy, his brothers Eric and Jacob and his mother.

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