Speedy LB pledges to Tennessee

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When followers of Tennessee football recruiting got wind of a pledge coming from Hutchinson Community College on Friday, most assumed it would be Ben Bradley, Toby Johnson or Jatavious Stewart.

However, it turned out to be rising redshirt freshman DeVondre Campbell.

Tennessee coaches made a trip to Hutchinson, Kansas, this spring and got a look at Campbell on film. Coach Derek Dooley called with a scholarship offer on Thursday night. After some deliberation with his parents, Campbell decided to commit on Friday.

"I think a big reason why I did it is because it's a big conference school, and I also think that it will be better for me because I will be closer to home," Campbell told InsideTennessee. "My mom, she has been getting very sick lately. Being up here is kind of hard on me because I really can't be around her like I want to. Being in Knoxville, that's just a one-way trip down to Florida."

De'Vondre's mother is Catherine Campbell, who is currently fighting breast cancer. Short flights out of McGhee Tyson Airport just outside of Knoxville down to South Florida are common and inexpensive typically.

Another factor is Campbell's relationship with Hutchinson teammate and Tennessee signee Cordarrelle Patterson and former Hutchinson coach and Vol administrative intern Brandon Staley.

"I have a very strong relationship with (Staley) because he's the reason I got into JUCO anyways," Campbell said.

"I think I still would have (committed to Tennessee) regardless of (Staley) just because of the big name that that program has. All the players they produce, how they always finish pretty good except for last year they had an off year. But, other than that, they're a big-time school and regardless of (Staley) being there I would still go because of their name."

Five-star Patterson was a two-time All-American for the Blue Dragons and should pay immediate dividends for the Volunteers if he arrives in shape and picks up offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's offense. Patterson said he and Campbell are "cool" and his younger teammate thinks highly of him.

Tennessee intern Brandon Staley helped get Campbell into Hutchinson Community College.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
"(Patterson)'s a very cool dude," Campbell said. "I like him. I like being around him. He's so humble. He knows he's good, but I don't feel like he shows it. Most people who know they're good they're so cocky, but I don't think he's like that. He's pretty humble. I like him, I really do."

Where exactly Campbell fits in with defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri's scheme remains to be seen. He has experience at defensive end but his attributes could push him back two levels to safety perhaps. Much of the decision factors around how he looks when he suits up for spring practices in March 2013.

Campbell is a lean 6-feet-5, 215 pounds presently. However, he has a goal to get to 230 pounds by the time he enrolls in Knoxville in January.

"I don't feel like I really gained weight before I got into a college weightlifting program," he said. "Before I got here (at Hutchinson), I never lifted weights and I never did anything because I felt like I would never get the chance to go on and play college football at all."

Campbell has the makings of being an athletic freak on the gridiron given his above-average speed to go with his length.

"I think it translates a lot because most people don't expect linebackers to be sub-4.4 area," he said. "That's something I feel like is a strength in my area. I'm long, and I can run. That gives me versatility to move around the field at will. That's a big strength for me I feel like."

He ran track at Cypress Lake (Fla.) High School and nearly inched out a victory over Clemson star wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

"One race I feel like I did beat (Watkins). There's a picture of us on the Internet neck-and-neck. Honestly, I feel like I beat him, but because of who he is, I think they gave him the race. But, in my personal opinion, I feel like I won that race," Campbell said.

"Our official times were a millisecond apart. Like I finished in 21.88 and he finished in 21.87. I feel like I won that race because in the picture you can clearly see that I was in front of him. But, you know things happen."

The Fort Myers, Fla., native admitted he grew up a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the 3-4 scheme, which could suit him nicely, possibly at the JACK linebacker spot.

"I've always been a big fan of the 3-4 defense with athletic outside linebackers. I think I would fit perfectly in that defense because I get to not only use my speed in pass-rushing situations but I get to guard tight ends and show my versatility and athletic ability. So, that's another reason I really, really like Tennessee."

Campbell knows if his plans to finish at Hutchinson in December come to fruition, that would be big to help him get acclimated to the next level a semester early.

"I'm really grinding hard to get up out of here so I can have a spring at Tennessee and adjust to the SEC speed," he said. "Then, I can still have another three years to do what I have to do."

He plans to major in Sports Management.

Toby Johnson, a teammate of De'Vondre Campbell's at Hutchinson Community College, visited Tennessee this spring.

Danny Parker is currently the Associate Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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