Malik Campbell chat transcript

Malik Campbell is a professional student. He's going to graduate from college this May. He graduated from high school. Twice. And he almost went to Maryland before the Clearinghouse sent him back to high school. Listen to Syracuse's senior wide receiver discuss the long road he's taken.

On if he misses playing basketball:

"Not really. Basketball is out of my system. I'm just concentrating on playing football and just having the best season that I can have."


"Not really. I made the decision to go ahead and play football. I left basketball. I don't even think about it anymore. I know I could have been a good basketball player if I had the opportunity to play. I don't think there's a question about that. It was about having the opportunity, and I didn't get it. I'm just concentrating on football."

On his first love:

"I've been playing football since I was like five or six years old. I didn't start playing basketball until like eighth grade. I really didn't start playing until later on in my career. Football was always my first love."

On playing both sports:

"It was very tough. I tried it my freshman year, I played the whole basketball season. When I went into spring ball, I was so tired and exhausted. I just knew I couldn't do it for four years. I had to make a decision and stick with that one sport."

On if he could hang in basketball:

"It wasn't that there was any difficulty. I wanted to play basketball. If I would have had the opportunity to play as much as I wanted to, I probably would have never played football. I didn't have the opportunity to play as much as I like, so I went somewhere where I'd have the opportunity to play."


"I don't think I had a problem in basketball here. I think I could have played here and done well. That's not a question, it's just a matter of the opportunity. I held my own. I don't think it was question of being able to play."

On fighting with LaShon Howard:

"I remember that. It was crazy, but .. Every team has a fight or two on it."

On coming into basketball season late:

"You can't at all think it's easy. There's no way you can take a long period of time off and then come back and think you're going to start over somebody that's been playing everyday. It doesn't happen that way. You have to be a Michael Jordan-type player to do something like that. It takes a lot of work to start at a Division I level and play well, you have to practice. It's not that you just come into it, unless you've just got that gift. Some people have it and some people don't."

On being called the greatest two-sport athlete to come out of Buffalo:

"It's pretty big. We have a lot of guys that do it, but not to the level that I did it, I guess. It's something to be proud of. I just go along with it. If that's the way they feel, it's good. I'm going to go with it as long as they keep on saying it."

On his neighborhood:

"It was fun. I had a lot of fun growing up. It got a lot rougher as I got in high school, but growing up, I had a great time, playing football every day, just running around having fun with my friends. We had a lot of fun."

On how tough it was:

"I don't think it's tougher than any other neighborhood. It's a neighborhood, you know, inner city. They've got drugs. They've got crime. They've got everything that any other inner city has. You've just got to avoid those things and have somebody that can teach you to get up out of there."

On who stayed with him:

"I had a few people that stayed in my corner. Vernon Duncan was at YMCA, where I worked out almost every day. My high school coach, Fadri Ansari, who's been there through the whole process. Eric Oslan, my parents. There's been a lot of people in my life that have helped me, pushed me to stay focused on being the best athlete that I can."

On why talented players have trouble making it out of Buffalo:

"There's a lot of guys there that don't get to see a lot of people make it out of there. They don't have options. In the public school system, there's so much talent there, it's unbelievable. I'm not the only guy that's good out there. I know 1,000 guys that are better than me, way better than me. They didn't get the opportunity. They didn't have the grades. There was always something that was missing that didn't push them over the hump. Lot of talent there, an unbelievable amount of talent. I'm happy to see my high school has been doing well the last couple of years. Almost every year since I left, there's been a guy that goes Division I out of high school. They've been doing very well. As a whole, there's a lot more talent than what they've been seeing come out of there. They haven't been given the opportunity. But we're showing them little by little that there is talent there."

On if he ever thought of quitting:

"Not at all. A lot of people know, I went through a lot. Coming out of the inner city, I could have got caught up in the streets. But I had parents and a lot of people behind me that pushed me and kept me away from that. I wasn't the best student. I messed up in the Clearinghouse. I had to come home for year. That could have turned me away right there. I could have put my head down and said I don't want to go through it. But I just stuck with it. I had a lot of positive people behind me, and it just helped me get going. I could have easily gave up. It was tough going back to high school after you graduated to do that. I had people behind me."

On if anyone came back to talk to him when he was growing up:

"Not at all. I can't remember one person coming back and talking to me when I was growing up. Not one. It's been quiet a few people that made it out of Buffalo that went on to college, either through academics or athletics, but they never came back. I didn't really have that motivating person or the person that's been there to really talk to me. It was something I had to learn on my own and go through it myself and get through it myself."

On coming back to talk to inner-city youth:

"I always want to let them know. That's my main focus. Every time I talk to the kids, I let them know it is possible that you can get out of there. It's not hard at all. If that's something you want to do, you can do it. If you put your mind to it and work at it, it's going to be tough, there's going to come a stumbling block in that process, but if you keep going with it and being persistent, things are going to work out for you."

On his high school field conditions (or lack thereof):

"It didn't really bother me as much. I'm from the inner city, so we improvise on everything. I never had the best of anything. You've got to improvise someway. That was just another thing I had to go through. It wasn't a problem at all. It was a lot of fun, actually."

Continued description:

"(laughs) We didn't have a football field at all. There was no football field. We had to walk across the street to the softball field and practice. It was like … our high school was in the back, it was a small high school, we had to walk all the way across the street, through a field to another field just to practice. We didn't understand – you say, ‘Go five yards.' We don't have indicators. We don't know what five yards is. You had to estimate what's five yards and what's 10 yards. We didn't have any of that. It was fun, though. You got used to it."

On improvising:

"You've got to improvise. If one thing doesn't work, you've got to be able to do something else. Always. It was a lot of fun. You definitely have to have a lot of creativity out there when you're playing."

On Damone Brown:

"Me and Damone have been friends for a while. We played AAU basketball together. We came to college together. Almost eight years, nine years."

On how big an influence Brown was:

"It was a big influence. My first year, I went out and signed with Maryland. That was a year before Damone came out. I was a year ahead of him. I was trying to find somebody to go with me to school then. Me and Tim Wynn, he was supposed to come here and play basketball, I was supposed to play football the year before. But he ended up at St. Boneventure, so I said I wasn't going to go here. Then, everything went down with Maryland and Damone was coming. That was another friend I had, so I came with him. It worked out well."

On how coaches felt about him playing both sports:

"I don't think Boeheim had a problem with me playing both sports. It really didn't matter to him as much. But Coach P, he's more a stickler to the rules. He wants you to be full time, which is good. In football, especially with our system, you need to be full time. There's no way that you can come in part time and do it, especially as a freshmen. It's almost impossible for you to learn a system and play both sports. I understand where he's coming from."

On if they forced him to make a choice:

"They always let me make my own decision. If that was something that I wanted to do, then they gave me the opportunity to play football and basketball, which was good. Things worked out where I ended up playing football."

On his first graduation from high school:

"I was very happy. I felt I had everything to go to college. I was ready to go to college. It was a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun with my friends. I still keep in contact with all my friends now. It's real good. I had a lot of fun with those guys, a lot of great memories, just hanging out after graduation. I remember going to the prom and everything. I had a lot of fun with those guys, I love those guys to death."

  • had all black, colors black and red tassles, wore shorts and sneakers underneath gown, the only one

"After graduation, then I had an all-star game. Then, I went the same night, right after the game, I went to college."

  • was there for 2-3 weeks

On College Park, where he first attended college:

"Nice. It was beautiful down there. It was hard to leave. That place was unbelievable. I love that place. I wouldn't have minded staying there. It would have been a great place."

  • got down there, coach told him he wasn't cleared, couldn't practice

On having to watch them practice instead of participating:

"It was hard. I've seen the guys out there practicing. I wanted to practice so bad. I was ready to go. I got down there, and he told, I was very disappointed sitting there watching them. And I couldn't do anything about it."

On going back to high school:

"That was the worse feeling that I could ever go through in my life. I wouldn't wish anybody to go through that. A lot of people, they didn't know me personally, they didn't know what happened, everybody was talking about it. It just sucked. A lot of people turned their back on me. A lot of people stopped talking to me for a while, like I did something wrong. And it wasn't even my fault. It was tough, but I learned. It made me a stronger and better person for it."

  • religion class four years, only took one class ½ a credit short

On if people constantly asked him about it:

"It went on until I went to college the next year. What happened? What happened? It was hard to keep it in perspective. It was something I just worked through and dealt with. I realized that it wasn't my fault. I did everything in my power. I got the grades. They told me going into the year what I needed to be eligible for college. I did everything in my power. I actually did better than what I was supposed to do. I had the SAT scores. They just didn't accept the classes that I had."

On when he first heard his credits might not be accepted:

"I heard there might be a problem at the end of the year, when they said they weren't accepting some of my classes. petitioned, didn't go through."

On if people turned their back on him:

"But those people that were just around me but really didn't know me, they turned their back on me."

On if he thinks about Maryland now that both its teams are doing well:

"Right now, I'd be gone, so it really wouldn't matter. I'd be done by now. I would have been in there those days that they were losing. I'd have been pretty upset anyway."

On playing quarterback there:

"I definitely would have been a quarterback. If you remember that year, all three quarterbacks got hurt in the first three games. I would have played as a true freshman. I would have been forced into the role as a quarterback. It wouldn't have made a difference. They got hurt. I would have had to play."

On his year off:

"The year I came back, I started playing a lot of basketball with Mickey Walker my AAU coach. A lot of basketball schools started getting interested. I started getting a lot of attention from basketball. A lot of schools started calling."

On why he chose Syracuse:

"I still had it in my dreams to play football. So I wanted to go to a school where I could probably play both."

  • went for whole year

On not being able to play football for a year:

"It sucked. I'm telling you, it's the worst thing you can go through. You don't want to do it. Getting up in the morning and thinking, ‘I graduated. Why do I have to keep getting up and going to this class?' My diploma's sitting there, right in my face, and I've got to go back to high school, see the same teachers. It was hard."

On how he did in class his second time around in high school:

"I ended up getting 90s and stuff through the whole thing. I took Chemistry, it was probably the toughest class. I had to study really hard for that one. I ended up doing good in it. It was worth it, but it's alright. It's over with now. I didn't die. It didn't kill me. So I'm alright."

On the Clearinghouse:

"It's tough. I can't say … It's good because of the things that happened in the past where people were just getting pushed through the system. It's forcing the academic system to be more conscious of everything. They can't just push kids through the system. You get through college and you can't read. I think it's good. But it actually hurts people like myself who actually did the work and it just doesn't work out in your favor. So I've got mixed feelings about the Clearinghouse."

On Syracuse:

"They were always in the picture, football-wise. Then they saw me in one the AAU tournaments and I was playing really well. Coach Orr, told Coach Boeheim about me and they started getting interested again. So they started recruiting me."

On why he chose Syracuse:

"Right after they said they would let me play both sports. This was my second choice. Those were my two choices to play. The coach at Maryland got fired, so I chose here."

"I played basketball. So it wasn't really that bad."

On if he was rusty:

"As a quarterback, definitely. Because when I came back, it was almost impossible for me to play quarterback. I looked horrible out there. It looked like I'd never played the position. That's another reason why I went to wide receiver. It definitely hurt me a lot, not playing football for a year."

On his second year:

"I knew I wasn't going to play football again. It was Donovan's senior year, so I knew I wouldn't play. I just ended up playing basketball again. But then I was going to transfer after that because I didn't play as much as I wanted to in basketball."

  • talking to Richmond, Hofstra, 1AA schools

On if he wanted to give up then:

"I never gave up. I always knew I was good enough to play either football or basketball. I knew I was good enough to play, it was just getting the opportunity to play. I was just trying to find that place where I could get the opportunity to play."

On playing both sports:

"I was pressed for time. I wanted to play right now. There's wasn't going to be wait two years to learn our offense. I learned it as fast as possible. I picked it up in the spring and the preseason because I wanted to play. I wanted to play right away."

On if he made the right decision:

"It's great. I got an opportunity to play at the next level. It worked out well for me. I think I made the right move."

On learning SU's offense:

"That's just from studying. When I came back, I wanted to learn it so bad so I could play. I had to prove to the coaches that I knew it. I picked it up pretty quickly."

On if he's the grandfather of the offensive team:

"It seems like I've been here forever. It's been fun. I enjoyed myself."

On Malik is Unique sign that hangs in the Dome:

"It was a quote that Coach DeLeone put in the paper a few years ago about me being able to play football and my ability and stuff like that. They just put it on the sign."

"I always look up there."

  • met at the basketball banquet
  • best athlete in syracuse history

On if he played any other sports:

"I didn't do anything but play basketball and football. That's all I had time for. By the time those things were over, I was tired."

  • jugg machine, supposed to catch it with two hands, caught with one, 60 miles an hour, eight yards back

On his family:

"We struggled. We struggled a lot. We still are struggling. But everything I needed, they made sure I got. I'm thankful for that, and I love them to death for it."

On if he still thinks about it:

"I always think about that. But things could have turned out a lot different. I could still be at home right now, stuck. Not doing anything, working everyday. I got a chance to do great things with my life. I'm happy about it."

On what's in the future:

"Hopefully I can do something working with kids. I want to be there for the children, the minority children that don't have the opportunity and don't really get the chance to see people come out of college. There is a way and there's always opportunity. You've got to work for what you want."

On if he's happy:

"I'm quite happy for the decision I made. I think it was the best decision for me. If things don't work in my favor, I made the right decisions. And I'm willing to accept the consequences of every decision that I make."

Would he change anything?

"No. Not all. I wouldn't do anything different."

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