NU safety Campbell leading by example

Just a sophomore, Ibraheim Campbell is working to become a leader in Northwestern's secondary. The soft-spoken safety takes his craft very seriously, and isn't in need of much for motivation each Saturday.

Nearly every football player has some sort of pre-game rituals. Some eat the same meal before each game. Others don the same underwear on game day. Many have the same music playlist to bring up their energy level.

What does Ibraheim Campbell do prior to kickoff?

"Nothing," the sophomore safety stated.

Campbell is a man of few words, but let's his actions do the talking. He takes his craft very seriously.

The night before each game, Campbell struggles to sleep. Football is all that's on his mind.

"There's not much sleeping," Campbell said. "Just visualizing the game and everything you went through in practice, just visualizing what plays you plan on making."

A native of Philadelphia, Campbell became Northwestern's starting safety as a redshirt freshman in 2011. On the first play of his career, he was out of position on a run by Boston College's Andre Williams, who scampered 69 yards. It was a rocky start to Campbell's career.

After that, though, he tallied a team-leading 100 tackles, added two interceptions, and was named FWAA Freshman All-American.

Campbell is helping others benefit from his playing time. He is working to become a leader on the defense while guiding some of the Wildcats' young, inexperienced defensive backs.

"I'm just trying to help out the guys as much as I can, having been out there already," Campbell said of his leadership role. "Just trying to share my experiences with them because there's no replacement for experience."

During practice, Campbell has pulled other players aside from drills and explained how to do it right. Usually soft-spoken, Campbell isn't afraid to make his voice heard if it involves encouraging a teammate.

"It's amazing, he's a veteran leader and he's just a sophomore," NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

During the offseason, Fitzgerald used newspaper clippings which documented the demise of NU's defense, with hopes it would motivate the unit. That's not uncommon around college football as other players use quotes or objects are fuel for excitement.

Campbell doesn't need any pump-up music or message board talk to motivate him for each game.

"I just want to succeed, want to see my team do well," he said. "It's something we've been working at since last season. That's motivation in itself."

Entering his second season as a starter, Campbell is setting high goals as he looks to top his rookie campaign.

"Never be satisfied with making one play," he said. "If you get a [pass break-up], it should have been a pick; if you made a tackle, it should have been a [tackle for a loss]. Never be satisfied with what's expected. Always strive for more and stay hungry."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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