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Jack Campbell has always been around the ball, even in basketball
Iowa’s honor-collecting linebacker was vital member of 2-time high school state-champ … in basketball
IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz undervalues Jack Campbell. Wait, say what?
“He was just a hack in basketball; he got fouls really fast,” Ferentz said last Saturday after Campbell tackled Colorado State football players 18 times in Iowa’s 24-14 win.
Given the chance to again speak of Campbell’s basketball prowess Tuesday, the Iowa football head coach said this:
“At least he can't foul out in football, that's one good thing. So some of the issues he had in basketball don't carry over to our sport.”
When it was suggested to Ferentz that his Bronko Nagurski National Player of the Week/Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week was actually a good basketball player, the coach relented. A bit.
“He was a foul waiting to happen early,” Ferentz said. “He became pretty good, I thought.”
"I kind of played my role, which was setting screens, getting rebounds and playing defense,“ Campbell said this week, ”and letting all the good shooters shoot the ball.“
Campbell undervalued himself with that remark. The Hawkeye linebacker was good enough to be on the Class 4A all-tournament team in 2019 as a senior when his Cedar Falls team won its second-straight state championship. He scored 10 points in the Tigers’ 44-41 title-game triumph over Dubuque Senior.
The year before, 6-foot-5 Campbell scored six straight points early in the second quarter to start an 11-0 run during Cedar Falls’ 65-45 championship-game victory over Iowa City West.
Patrick McCaffery, a current Hawkeyes basketball player who was first-team all-state at West, said Campbell “was a very effective player, honestly. My senior year (when Campbell scored 25 points in Cedar Falls’ 59-56 win at West), he really hurt us.
“He’s incredibly physical and always was around the ball, similar to how he is on the football field. He could really rebound and had nice touch around the basket as well. He was a very important part of their state-championship runs.”
Football was Campbell’s door to major-college athletics. But Ferentz and his coaches often learn just as much seeing recruits in basketball or wrestling settings. In the winter of 2018, Ferentz and then-Iowa assistant Reese Morgan went to Cedar Falls High to watch a basketball practice.
“My junior year, all five starters are now playing Division I,” Campbell said. “Obviously AJ Green is a very talented point guard at UNI. He’s one heck of a guy. Ben Gerdes plays football at Drake. Jackson Frericks walked on here (at tight end). Logan Wolf obviously plays football (at UNI).”
With Ferentz and Morgan present, all those Tigers wanted to show who they were.
“It was probably the most memorable practice I’ve ever been a part of,” said Ryan Schultz, the Cedar Falls boys’ basketball head coach. “It’s not every day you have Coach Ferentz and Coach Morgan at your basketball practice, so you can imagine there was already a buzz and a little bit of an electric atmosphere within our team.
“With those two watching, all the guys were geared up more than usual. We had a very competitive practice planned with a lot of toughness and competitive team drills.
“Jack and Logan were on opposite teams and were both putting on a show. It ended with a thunderous alley-oop dunk to Jack going over someone in the process to win the drill and the entire gym erupted. I think Coach Ferentz and Coach Morgan were just as engaged and excited as everyone else.”
Morgan, Campbell said, “never coached me while I was here. But he’s such a genuine man, and that’s something that kind of got me to Iowa.
“Seeing them when they came to practice, having a legendary Hall of Fame head coach come and see you, that meant a lot to me and that’s something I’ll always remember.”
Ferentz has been to a lot of high school gyms in his 23 years as Iowa’s head coach, but remembers that day in Cedar Falls.
“You can get a feel when you're at a practice, if the team's into it,” Ferentz said. “And the coaches were highly organized. It really just flowed. It was really just impressive that way.”
The Campbell that Ferentz saw in the gym that day is the one he sees today. Ferentz likes to use the term “high-motor” about some players. Campbell competes like he’s ready to run 500 miles at Daytona.
Being surrounded by other high-motor athletes at Cedar Falls helped Campbell, and vice versa.
“I feel like it’s carried over to here,” Campbell said. “I try to take some of the things I learned from high school and bring them here, but I’ve also learned a lot of new things here. So I can continue pushing my teammates around me and having them push me.”
Ferentz can joke about Campbell’s basketball career. But the linebacker was a winner before he got to the Hawkeyes, and the two hours the coach had that opinion reinforced in Cedar Falls’ gym was indeed time well spent.
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