Auburn, Ala.–-It has taken Jason Campbell a long time to win over supporters, but following last season's outstanding performance in leading the Auburn Tigers to a perfect season people are starting to come around.
Thought to be a mid to late round selection before the 2004 season started, Jason Campbell has rocketed up the boards for most teams and is now on the fringe of being selected in the first round of this weekend's NFL Player Draft in New York City. He says that despite all the good talk coming out about him right now, he's not going to take anything too seriously until he hears his name called from the podium.
"A lot of that information is not accurate because on draft day there are a lot of trades," Campbell says. "On draft day a lot of trades happen and people don't go where they think they're supposed to go. You can't really put a lot of emphasis on it because a lot of teams may have it in the back of their mind where they're going to trade and pick up something. You never know."
One thing that is certain is Campbell's play on the field since the arrival of Coach Al Borges. Always a steady quarterback, the Taylorsville, Miss., native never completed less than 60 percent of his passes for a season, but he didn't make a lot of big plays in the passing game either. As a senior that changed for the better.
Running the show in a version of the West Coast offense employed by many NFL teams, Campbell completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Those numbers made people in the NFL sit up and take notice as did his performance in the Senior Bowl when he outperformed other quarterbacks such as Georgia's David Green and Miami (Fla.)'s Brock Berlin. Campbell says that his rise has been a fun ride, but one that would probably be a little different without last season's play on the field.
"I feel like I would have gotten drafted even after my three years here. I probably would have got drafted, I wouldn't have gotten drafted where I wanted. I probably would have improved by pro day and got myself like third or fourth-round pick. That's just because I hadn't been able to establish myself as the quarterback running an open style offense.
"After this year, a lot of teams run coach Borges' offense in the NFL. If they see me run his offense that way, that's what they're running and they're like this is how he can perform in a wide-open offense. That probably put me up really high.
"Teams still have questions and try to find something negative about you. That's how you go into the offseason getting ready for the draft. You try to attack all the points you think they are saying negative about you. When they come, you want to make sure they're not having that same negative thought when they leave."
Hearing negative things is something that Campbell got used to during his time at Auburn. Despite completing 62.3 percent of his passes through his first three seasons and throwing 25 touchdowns and with 17 interceptions, Campbell shouldered much public blame for the Tigers' troubles during those years. It was something that he never let bother him in public and he says he won't let that tarnish what Auburn means to him.
"Just because what some folks did doesn't mean it's Auburn," Campbell said. "Some folks probably booed me, but a lot of folks got mad at them. I can't get mad at the fans. I don't know who it was that cursed me, but I just treat everyone equal. You either like me or you don't like me. I'm not going to go somewhere and cry because you don't like me."
Campbell now turns his attention to the NFL and life on his own. While he's an experienced college player that has been at Auburn for five years there is a different world waiting for him beginning this weekend with the draft. That life involves having money for the first time and living a professional athlete's lifestyle. While it has been a problem for some to handle, Campbell says that he doesn't believe it will affect him a great deal.
"You don't want to go on a spending spree and go crazy and use all your money up," Campbell said. "Football is only going to last 10 or 15 years and some guys don't make it that far, and when you come out you want to be able to start something that you want to do in life. You don't want to spend it all up and be broke and have nothing to show for it."
Like teammates Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams and Carlos Rogers, Campbell did splurge some when he bought a new truck last month, only the way he did it was different than most. Campbell paid for the truck with the money made from a football card photo shoot. Not wanting to get in debt before his first check, Campbell says that he's waiting to see where he lands and what kind of contract he signs before his next big purchase, a house for his parents.
"That was the first thing I wanted to do is take care of my mom and dad," Campbell said. "When I get my first check that will be something that I'll do. On draft day I'll wait to see where I go and then that first year I'll probably do something for them."
Teams have been coming in left and right since Campbell's impressive performance last month at Auburn's Pro Day on campus. Showing the ability to make all the throws, good mechanics, and a willingness to learn, Campbell caught the eye of several teams such as the Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins who have been back in town recently to check him out a little closer. He says that he has no preference where he winds up as long as it's a team that lets the quarterback make plays.
"I feel like there are a couple of teams that can utilize an athletic quarterback," Campbell said. "My situation is I just hope I end up with a good team that has a good supporting cast like (Ben) Roethlisberger. He probably fell from the first position last year, but he had great guys around him and was able to make that transition. It will probably be a better transition for me than the other quarterbacks because I played in the SEC. There are a lot of guys out of this conference that you see on Sundays."
Auburn is expected to have at least three players taken in the first round Saturday with both Brown and Williams locks and Rogers as close to a lock as you can be. There is also talk circulating that Campbell may move into the first round of the draft as the week gets older. While that is exciting to think about, Campbell says for right now he's just going to concentrate on enjoying the moment with his family and getting ready for a new life.
"It hasn't hit me yet," Campbell says. "It will probably hit me sometime on Thursday or Friday. I said I wasn't going to watch it much, but I want to see where everyone is going. I feel like I'll go in the first round. If not I won't be disappointed because you can still go to a good team. In about a year or two you might be starting for that team. Then it works out for you in the long run."
Meet Jason Campbell
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