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Former Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell focuses on ‘just being Jack Campbell’ ahead of NFL Draft
Campbell as kid ‘never thought in a million years’ he would be at NFL Combine
IOWA CITY — Growing up in Cedar Falls, Jack Campbell remembers watching the NFL combine as a kid.
The future Iowa linebacker was a fan of the nearby Northern Iowa Panthers, who had an exciting 6-foot-1 running back participating in the preeminent prospect evaluation event in 2015.
“I remember watching David Johnson do the combine,” Campbell said. “I never thought in a million years that I'd be there.”
Fast-forward eight years, and Campbell is going through the same pre-draft process Johnson and countless others have gone through in previous years. He’s doing it with a straightforward strategy.
“Just being Jack Campbell,” the former Iowa linebacker said Monday.
Campbell believes there are “a lot of people out there who kind of try to fake it,” but he made it clear Monday that will not be his approach.
“The best thing that I’ve learned throughout this process is just be you, be yourself, don’t change,” Campbell said from the Hansen Football Performance Center after Iowa’s pro day. “If I’m talking to a head coach, a GM and an owner, I’m treating them the same way as I treat our janitor here, Doug.”
Campbell trained in California after the bowl game before heading back to Iowa after the combine.
He improved his draft stock considerably at the combine, finishing first or second among linebackers in the vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
Participating in the NFL event was a “surreal moment” for Campbell although the gravity of the moment did not fully set in as he was going through an extensive week of medical testing, media and team interviews and drills.
“It kind of hit me after I was done,” Campbell said.
Campbell received positive feedback from NFL teams, but he is not reading much into it.
“They just think that I’m a pretty solid player, and that they’re excited if they’d have an opportunity to work with me,” Campbell said. “And that’s likewise, but they probably tell a lot of guys that.”
Four of ESPN’s NFL Draft experts ranked the top five inside linebackers in the 2023 draft class following the combine. All four had Campbell as the third-best option behind Clemson’s Trenton Simpson and Arkansas’ Drew Sanders.
The high marks follow a season in which Campbell earned unanimous consensus All-America honors, the Butkus Award and the William V. Campbell Trophy. He was the first Hawkeye to take home the Butkus Award and the Campbell Trophy.
Campbell has faced adversity in the last three months, though.
“There’s been highs and lows these last couple months, like no other,” Campbell said. “It’s taught me a lot about how to handle adversity. … I’ve learned a lot about myself.”
Campbell experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows right away in the pre-draft process.
His favorite Iowa moment was “walking off the field for the last time, being with Coach (Kirk) Ferentz” and a long list of teammates that he’s been “super close with” after the Hawkeyes’ 21-0 win over Kentucky in Music City Bowl.
The news of his grandfather’s death — a grandfather who Iowa Ferentz said “had a really big influence on Jack’s entire life” — followed that happy moment.
“My family has been fantastic in these last few months,” Campbell said Monday. “It has shown me a lot about what a great support system I have around myself and what I’ll continue to have in the future.”
The aforementioned support system is on the list of things not expected to change for Campbell as he begins his NFL journey. Perhaps at the top of that list is Jack Campbell being Jack Campbell.
Iowa pro day by the numbers
32 - NFL teams in attendance
66 - NFL personnel
11 - Players participating, including nine whose Iowa careers ended after the 2022 season