Ideas for unique and different slants on sports stories come from various and different events, and the inspiration for this story are no different.
Yesterday afternoon after watching the first official practice for the 2011 Titans, me and my fellow media members made our way into the locker room like always to see what interesting comments were to be had.
All players are available, most are happy to answer the variety of questions that might be asked and there is always one or two interesting conversations taking place at an increased volume.
The majority of media members seek out veteran players like newly signed quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, veteran offensive tackle Michael Roos or wide receiver Kenny Britt whose off the field issues kept the Titans in some headlines during the lockout.
I was no exception in wanting to get some tape from a veteran, but decided to skip the gaggle of cameras and recorders in front of the usual suspects and made my way to the back of the room to find linebacker Will Witherspoon.
After a short conversation with Witherspoon, I move up the row to cornerback Alterran Verner. It was here that something I had never experienced in my years of covering the Titans occurred.
While talking with Verner, with other players moving back and forth, some heading to workout, others to shower or find their way to the cafeteria for a post practice meal, a tall, slender looking, at least by NFL standard young man that I didn’t recognize approached and came to the locker next to Verner’s
I noticed his approach, and tried to move to allow the unknown young man room to get to his things. It was here that my idea was born.
As the young man moved past me I heard him say, “Excuse me sir.”
That was a new one. Players are generally always courteous, but never before had I been referred to as sir.
Intrigued by this new occurrence I had to know just who thought I was old enough to be called sir.
The name on the name tag above the locker said Tommie Campbell.
Campbell, a 6’3” 203 rookie safety from California University of Pennsylvania was the ninth, and last selection by the Titans in the seventh round of this year’s NFL draft.
I had heard Campbell’s story about signing out of high school to play for the University of Pittsburgh, and how academic issues ended his career with the Panthers.
He transferred to tiny Edinboro University in Edinboro Pennsylvania, but failure to attend class ended his time there.
With football now all but over, Campbell took a job working as a janitor at the Pittsburgh International Airport before getting an opportunity to return to college football, at Cal. U Pa.
“I left Pitt and Edinboro and got a chance at Cal after I was working at the airport as a janitor. I worked as a janitor for about six months.”
When the opportunity to return to football at Cal. U arose, Campbell was all too ready to turn in his mop for a helmet.
That opportunity turned out to be a good one for Campbell.
“I didn’t expect to play football ever again at one point, and I got a call from Cal, and I went up there and did everything they asked me to do.”
Campbell played well enough to earn a place on the roster of the Cactus Bowl All-Star game. It was there where Campbell ran a 4.31 and 4.33 40 in front of scouts, including those from the Titans.
Campbell, who could be described as a project with a world of athletic ability is the most intriguing story of all the rookies, drafted or otherwise in this Titans camp, and after speaking with him yesterday, I was impressed by more than just his speed in the 40.
He is a polite and nice young man, who understands the value of the opportunity he has been given to have a shot at an NLF roster rather than cleaning up the airport men’s room.
I don’t normally cheer for a player to win a spot on the roster, but after meeting Tommie Campbell, he will be the first.
By the way, I did find time to stop by the circus taking place in front of Kenny Britt’s locker.
During Britt’s comments he stated that he had learned from his mistakes during the past off season.
I asked him what he had learned, to which he responded, “Stay out of New Jersey.”
Sounds like good advice for him and the Titans rookies.
Note: This is the first in a eight part look at the Titans draft class, as I look at more than just their football abilities. Jake Locker has already been profiled, and you can find his story at Locker Proving To Be Just What The Titans Wanted.