Team Player

Tyler Campbell loves to compete. He loves to play and to punt. But he also knows his Ole Miss team is better off when he's on the sidelines.

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That means, of course, that the Ole Miss offense is moving the football and scoring points. But when that doesn't happen and they are not in field goal range or going for it on fourth down, that's when Campbell is their man.

"You don't see me very much, but when you do see me, I try to get the job done," said the junior from Little Rock, Ark. "It really is kinda like being the hero or the goat. That's just how it goes. The spotlight's on when you're out there."

Campbell wasn't a goat at all last season during his sophomore campaign. The team as a whole struggled through a dismal 4-8 season and missed out on a bowl bid for the first time in three years.

But Campbell was the best punter of them all in college football, named as the NCAA punting champion with a nation's best 46.37 yard average. It was the third best statistical season for a punter in Rebel football history.

So with a cannon for a leg and the stats to prove it, the 6-foot-2, 227-pound Campbell went about the task of becoming an even better punter. He spent the spring and summer focusing more of his attention on other parts of his trade than just kicking the football as far as he can.

"I've really worked on hang time and pooch punting," said Campbell, whose long punts his first two seasons in college were 71 yards as a freshman and 69 yards as a sophomore. "I've focused on net punting average on hang time, and field position on pooch punts inside the 10, inside the 5.

"On hang time, I focus more on driving the ball up instead of out, actually more to the sky. Then on pooch punts, I've actually adjusted my drop. I drop it higher, and the plan is for it to go higher and not as far so I won't drive it to the end zone."

Campbell likes the challenges of becoming a better all-around punter rather than just being known as a thunderfoot, so to speak.

Tyler Campbell
Bruce Newman

"In high school, it really was all about how far you can punt it," said Campbell, agreeing that the ooohs and aaahs from fans normally come from how far a punt is launched.

"But my job really is for field position for my team. Of course it's fun to stand on your own 20 and sail one 80 yards. But the crowd actually reacts the same way if you hit one and it lands on the 1-yard line. That's an important aspect of the game."

In high school punting wasn't the only aspect of his game. He also played strong safety at Catholic High School. His tore his ACL playing defense as a junior.

"I was already getting recruited as a punter then," Campbell said. "My dad (Charlie) was actually the one who suggested just punting my senior year."

That was a key to him being able to find a Southeastern Conference football program to call home. Campbell explained, using punter's terms.

"It's all about timing," he said. "You're invited to camps. I came to senior camp (at Ole Miss), and that's where I got my scholarship (offer). If you can punt, they watch you and evaluate you. And if they need one, they'll try to get you."

Ole Miss had a need. Campbell needed a team. It didn't hurt that he is from Arkansas and the former University of Arkansas head coach, Houston Nutt, and many on his staff are now at Ole Miss.

"They'd heard of me over there (in Arkansas)," he said. "They came down here (to coach), and they invited me to come over for visits. I'm really happy with the staff here. Coach (James) Shibest, special teams coach, we're close. I still hear it from some back home about going to Ole Miss, being from Arkansas. I love it here in Oxford and at Ole Miss."

Ironically, but maybe not surprisingly, Ole Miss and Arkansas were the only senior camps he attended when he was being recruited – as a punter. Defense would have been fun, he said, and being on the field more would be nice if that was the case. But that's in his past now.

"I miss defense, of course, but I've accepted that I probably couldn't play defense in college," Campbell said. "(Punting) is my job now. It's fun.

"I've learned to do whatever's best for the team. If it's to punt one deep, I'll do that. If it's pooch punt a lot, I'll pooch punt a lot. It's my job to help the team out, whatever that is."

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