Campbell knows his Irish teammates are going to need him to play well in their game against USC this weekend. Campbell knows this is a big rival and his last time to play USC.
"I would have to say yes," said Campbell when asked if this last game against USC motivates him to perform well. "USC has always been a traditional battle and that is a little bit of motivation. Just going out there with my teammates is motivation, I love every last one of them. My heart is with them so going out on the field is a testament to the soul we have on the defensive front."
"We've had so many blessings this last week – guys who couldn't play due to various illnesses coming through big time and just being there," Campbell continued. "I am so glad and thankful to God that everyone is OK and we can go out there together because they are like my family. I have the utmost respect for USC but I have even more respect that everyone came back today and we are looking pretty good to go out there and have a good front."
Campbell and Hilliard are way beyond friends and we asked Campbell if he's had to keep Hilliards spirits up as he battles back from an ankle sprain. "I think it has been more that Ced has had to keep my spirits up because I hurt really bad when he isn't out there. It's hard to look next to me, oh man – granted Greg (Pauly) and Dan (Santucci) and Derek (Landri) give it everything they have when they step in there but I consider Ced one of my brothers."
It's even hard to tell us apart when you look on field, you have to tell by the number," Campbell continued. "Seeing him struggle with injuries and illnesses, battling to come back – seeing him out there today at practice going as hard and as fast as he can made my eyes water a little bit. I'm just praising God and thankful that he's there because he means the world to me."
The USC defensive line has been nicknamed "the wild bunch." We asked Campbell why the Irish defensive line doesn't have a nickname. "I think that if you go out there and do everything you are supposed to do people will give you nicknames – the Wild Bunch, whatever. I don't really worry about them, I concentrate and have my main focus on the team, handling my individual responsibilities so we can collectively as a unit go out there and dominate. Whether they are the Wild Bunch or just a bunch of guys doesn't really matter, they have a different colored jersey and we are just going to go out there and have a good game."
The Irish defense had a miserable showing last year in the Coliseum surrendering 610 yards in offense. Campbell said this team hasn't forgotten about that. "You can say there is a revenge factor, I think mainly we just have to play a lot better than we did last year. I don't want to put any words out there that they can use for motivation but, at the same time, we are really anxious to play."
The Irish defense has been solid if not spectacular this year. The offense has been the unit holding this team back. Campbell said he was thrilled to see the offense dominate a good team in Pittsburgh. "It was just overwhelming, seeing the offense go down there and keep hammering, keep hammering. It's really not something I've seen here in my five year tenure, seeing an offense dominate a front, especially a decent front like Pittsburgh."
"We've had players here of the caliber to do that but it just wasn't getting done until that moment," Campbell continued. "Even more so, a testament to the defense – I believe that stat was eight yards rushing for Pittsburgh and I am thankful to God for that one. The defense hasn't dominated a team like that since 1977 or thereabouts. They are just stats but it goes to show that we are a good team – I know a lot of people like to jump on and off of the bandwagon but you've got to give us some credit because we do play ball and we know what ND football is all about. Saturday was a good showing of that."
Campbell is a team leader and he said he's been getting on all the defensive players this week so they understand the importance of this game. "I never stop getting on the players, never stop getting on myself. I wouldn't have it any other way, if I was getting on somebody I would definitely want them to get on me. Even today in practice I had an incident where I jumped offside – up until that point the defense had been jumping offside so we started a ten push-up rule. This is for any type of drill – I am getting on myself as well as everybody else."
The Irish defense would certainly benefit from a healthy Cedric Hilliard. Greg Pauly and Derek Landri have been doing a great job but another body would keep everyone fresh. It almost seems as if Campbell would play even better if he had Hilliard by his side—that is how much he misses his partner in crime. Hopefully both will be back to doing what they do best on Saturday—blowing up the middle of the USC line.