FORT WAYNE – Spring was no more than a rumor this April afternoon, as the wind rocked even strong men and temperatures in the 40s sent the Saint Francis football coaches burrowing inside fat blue parkas at Bishop John M. D’Arcy Stadium.
Know who didn’t mind all that, though?
This guy right here.
He was wearing white jersey No. 8 and tossing a football up and down on the sideline at this un-spring-like spring football practice. And if he wasn’t in pads and a helmet like his teammates well, that day is coming.
I’ll be cleared by the end of the month, he said.
That’s no time at all if you’re Antoin Campbell, who blew out his ACL on the first weekend of October last year and has spent the last six months in limbo – an eternity for a guy who’d never suffered a serious injury until that day against eventual NAIA national champion Grand View in Des Moines, Iowa.
This has been the most serious thing I’ve ever been through, so it has taken a lot of patience, Campbell said Friday. But I’ve grown to adapt with it.
And the Cougars grew to adapt without Campbell, their prize running back. When he went down, Campbell, who’d set a school rushing record as a sophomore in 2012, had run for 394 yards in the Cougars’ first three games, including 188 yards in 29 carries in the season opener against William Penn and 190 yards in a school-record 37 carries against Saint Ambrose. Both were victories.
But then Campbell was lost, and, two weeks later, backup Garrett Harvey was gone, too. In their absence, the Cougars discovered they had depth at running back they never imagined, as freshmen Jason Nicodemus, Aaron Harris and Jalen Campbell, Antoin’s younger brother, combined to rush for 969 yards and eight touchdowns.
Among those three and Campbell and Harvey, head coach Kevin Donley will have 1,611 yards and 17 touchdowns to begin 2014 with out of the running back position.
It was definitely a blessing in disguise, Campbell says of his injury. Those young guys got some great experience that typical freshmen really don’t have their first year. (Now) we’ve got a lot of guys in there to get the job done.
As for Campbell himself, he spent the first month after his injury letting the ligament heal. Now it’s just a lot of single-leg and lower-body training with assistant athletic trainer Clay Keeley to rebuild the strength in his quad and hamstrings.
In the meantime, Campbell found his own way to get the job done.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to do, he said of having to sit and watch last fall. But I just kind of developed into that leader role. I showed up to every practice the same way I would if I was playing. I came to all the meetings. I talked to a lot of guys. I coached up the young guys. We’ve got a lot of young guys, so whenever those guys needed something they could ask me and I was always there to help them.