116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — There’s total tackles and solo tackles, but add a new stat line that reads, “Jack Campbells.”
A “Jack Campbell” is a collection of game-changing plays, like recovering fumbles three weeks in a row, collecting a career-high in tackles (11) only to beat it by seven the following week and adding two pass breakups as the cherry on top.
The Iowa junior linebacker is not just a stat line, he’s the oxygen to every combustion reaction — a cataclysmic essential to spark the flame.
That's not something that comes with practice — it comes from the heart. At every postgame interview, Campbell leans on the podium with two hands, grasping onto it like it might be the last time he stands there. Or maybe because he’s left so much on the field that he’s supplying what little oxygen he has left into his low-toned, raspy speech.
Despite towering over others, the leaned posture positions him to peer up at you, almost like he’s still trying to prove something. Or that he’s ready for you to attack his team’s performance, and he’s lined up in defense of its honor, like a service dog protecting his defenseless owner.
“Throughout my life, a lot of people say, ‘A 6-5 linebacker? Oh you must not be able to move,” Campbell said. “I’m not going to say what coaching staff said this to me, but I didn’t have the right ankle bend or something? Just being able to move on, but having this great opportunity to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes and being from the state of Iowa, it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened in my life, but I’m also trying to have that chip-on-my-shoulder approach and just never be satisfied.”
It’s not just his own mentality, he said, it’s bred in the linebacker room by linebackers coach Seth Wallace, who worked his way up from Coe and Lake Forest colleges, then to Iowa as a graduate assistant, spending four years at Division-II Valdosta State before earning a spot back at Iowa in 2014.
To Campbell, it’s inspiring, and two weeks ago, Campbell likened his team to the “mutts,” of college football — he thinks they were all overlooked.
Maybe all it took was a little extra digging for a coach to notice that the Cedar Falls standout was someone who could be a difference-maker.
“I remember his senior year, it was one of the best basketball practices I’ve ever seen,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He was just a hack in basketball, he got fouls really fast. He could pick them up, but he’s always been a football player, just had a high motor. He’s got one speed.”
He’s the guy whose difference-making plays, like recovering a fumble from Colorado State running back A’Jon Vivens at the CSU 6 in the third quarter, that turn games around for the Hawkeyes.
“I could hear that momentum,” Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras said. “It was the first time I had to shush the crowd a little bit on that play to Tyrone (Tracy).”
Campbell had eight tackles in the first quarter alone, which was well on pace to his career-high of 11 from last week. By the end of the day, seven of his 18 tackles were solo. Fellow linebacker Seth Benson had 11 this game, including 1.5 tackles for loss, which was close to his best of 13 with 10 solo tackles against Northwestern last October.
They’re best friends, Benson said. They go to Bible studies together off the field and push each other on the field, and as two of Iowa’s leading linebackers, always on the field, their combined 29 tackles comes up in the conversation.
He asks how many tackles Campbell had, and in response to the 18, he smiles and lets out a loud sigh, as if delivering condolences to the other team before saying, “Man, that’s awesome!”
For perspective — the most by a Hawkeye since now Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens had 19 tackles against Iowa State in 2012.
Campbell’s response is different when asked if he knew he was having a good day.
“Honestly, no it didn’t feel like it,” Campbell said. “We’re going to need a lot of improvements, it starts with how we recover and how we take on all aspects of this next week.”
Then he credits the defensive line for his third fumble in three weeks.
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