116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Editor’s note: Fourth in a nine-part series looking at each Iowa football position ahead of the 2022 season.
IOWA CITY — You might disagree with Jack Campbell on this one.
“I’m really not that special,” Iowa’s senior middle linebacker said recently at his football team’s media day.
He’s devoid of much ego, that’s for sure. The above sentence proves it.
“Tremendously humble. That’s the first thing I’d say about him,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. “But he goes hard. Everything he does, he goes hard.”
Humility, going hard, quickness, speed on a 6-foot-5 frame, they’ve all made the Cedar Falls grad special, whether he’ll admit it or not. Campbell was named the Hawkeyes’ most valuable defensive player last season after leading them in tackles, that total of 143 ranking fifth all-time in program history, the most since Pat Angerer recorded 145 in 2009.
Angerer became a starter in the NFL, a career path Campbell appears ready to follow.
“It's always been a dream of mine to be able to come here and make an impact for the school, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have this stage that I have right now,” Campbell said. “And that's all thanks to my teammates and coaches for putting me in this position, and showing up with a great attitude and great effort.
“It has been such a blessing for me to be here in Iowa City being close to home, being around my family and my friends. I never would have dreamed of that. I always wanted to be a college football player, but I didn't know at what level or how good.”
Campbell played as mostly a special teamer as a true freshman in 2019, missed a lot of the 2020 season with mononucleosis and really took off last fall. He was a first-team all-Big Ten Conference pick by the media and a second-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America.
Curiously, Big Ten coaches placed him on their third team. Maybe that’s why Campbell declined turning pro and decided to return to Iowa for another season.
“The reason I came back is I just like the people around here,” Campbell said. “Starting with teammates, the utmost important thing for me right now is the relationships that I have within the linebacker group, then also the guys that I live with, the guys that I’m around all the time. That’s just something that money can’t buy.”
Campbell, Jestin Jacobs and Seth Benson give the Hawkeyes one of the best linebacker corps in the country. Linebackers coach Seth Wallace touted how the three are interchangeable in a sense, having the ability to play all three positions.
Wallace said he’s excited for fans to get a look at the guys behind the starting three because they’ve got ability. You’ve already seen juniors Jay Higgins and Kyler Fisher a little bit, then there are prospects like redshirt freshman Jaden Harrell, Karson Sharar and Justice Sullivan, among others.
What do all these linebackers have in common? They’re Midwesterners.
“I would definitely say as a linebacker group, we are like-minded,” Higgins said. “Being from the Midwest, you’ve got to learn how to tackle in the cold. That’s a big one. But just having that mutt mentality, like we all have, is big. We came here to be coached hard.”
“You look at guys like Jay Higgins out of Indianapolis, you look at Justice Sullivan from Minnesota. Then you look at the local guys, there’s a bunch of them: Karson Sharar, Kyler Fisher,” Wallace said. “This group that sits behind the three that are getting a lot of publicity today, I’m anxiously awaiting to go in there. If that was tomorrow, if that opportunity was midway through the season, I think they’ve proved as a group to our staff and their teammates that they’re ready to take on that responsibility ... I think we’ve got a lot of talent behind (the starters), a lot of depth.”
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