Going from being an All-Region selection to knowing a college football scholarship awaits is a life-opening moment for a teenager.
Jarek Campbell’s first offer came from the Tennessee Volunteers. The relationship building with Big Orange coaches commenced shortly thereafter and has strengthened ever since.
“They’re probably still my top (school),” Campbell said of Tennessee. “The coaches show a lot of love, they treat you as a family. They say they’ll have your back and be your family when you get here. I believe them.
“I’ve visited (Tennessee) more than any other school that I’ve visited. They treat you good.”
The Riverdale (Tenn.) High School athlete made another drive to Knoxville in February to take part in a junior day.
“The coaches, they showed a lot of love to me,” Campbell said. “The pulled the in-state guys out and talked to us about staying in-state and talked to us a lot more about the football program and the academic side and how they coach their program and what they expect and stuff.
“I do like the idea of staying in-state, staying close to home for my family and friends to come watch me play and stuff.
“At the beginning of junior day, we had a meeting with coach Jones about staying in-state and mid-state players, and he showed us a highlight video. It’ll give you the chills.”
Even though the Vols are in the driver’s seat, Campbell stopped short of giving Tennessee coaches a verbal commitment.
“I’m just going to wait to see if any other schools jump in,” Campbell said.
Rallying the Volunteer State troops to be Volunteers is clearly of importance for Butch Jones and the staff.
“That’s one thing coach Jones told us (Feb. 18), he said if all the Tennessee guys all stayed in Tennessee then we’ll be playing all the guys that play in Florida and all the good guys from Georgia,” Campbell said.
Aside from hearing Jones’ sales pitch, the 2018 class talent spent time with Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and defensive backs coach Charlton Warren. Campbell started out on recruiting radars as a wide receiver but not appears destined for the secondary.
“I mean they know I’ve switched, but they haven’t seen me play defense or anything,” said Campbell, who’s getting used to the idea of being a nickelback or safety in college.
“Right now I prefer defense because my coaches think that’s the best opportunity for me.
“I’m starting to like defense a lot better now that they’ve thrown me over there.”
At 5 feet 11, 195 pounds, the Murfreesboro resident has the size to hold down a variety of jobs on the back end of any defense. He has skills to go with those dimensions.
“I’ve always been fast, so I guess me being quick is a good transition for me going to safety,” he said.
Although he didn’t make a college decision yet, Campbell wants to do so at some point this summer.
“I want to do it before my season, definitely,” he said.
Kentucky, Memphis and South Carolina are the Vols’ top competition. Look for him to come back to Knoxville during the camp season this June.