Tommie Campbell once played in the same defensive secondary as Darrelle Revis for the Pittsburgh Panthers. Fast-forward a few years later, and after a stint as a janitor at the Pittsburgh Airport where he smoked a pack a day, Campbell is back to playing football and earning comparisons to another shut-down NFL corner: Richard Sherman.
At 6-3, 210 pounds, with a 40 time of under 4.4, Campbell is exactly what teams are looking for now to defend the high-octane offenses and those tall receivers that permeate the league. Campbell is a big, physical, press-corner in the mold of Seattle's Richard Sherman.
I am not here to say that Campbell is Sherman just yet. But he is taking reps with the first team this summer, and he did some impressive things Saturday when I watched him at the Titans facility. Campbell is splitting reps with Alterraun Verner, but Campbell would seem to be a better fit in the Titans' more aggressive style of defense in 2013. They want their corners up in the face of the receivers, hands on them at the snap, and size is a plus. That's perfect for Campbell and his long arms and powerful frame.
"You don't see a lot of guys with his size and his reach playing corner," Titans corner Jason McCourty said.
They're also lucky to have him. Campbell didn't last long at Pitt, failed out of a D II school he transferred to soon after, and had few options with his two kids. Then he began a spiral that he almost didn't make it out of.
"I sat out for 2 1/2 years," Campbell said. "We used to clean the USAir gates. I was the guy with that cart you see coming into the bathroom. I did it for almost a year. I used to smoke cigarettes. I was a janitor. That was my life. That's why anytime I see kids at home I tell them that school is the most important thing. I try to emphasize to them. Go to class. It was a long process for me because I didn't."
He got a tryout with a CFL team, but ran a 4.8. That came shortly after he worked out for the first time since his Edinboro days.
"The first time I worked out, I threw up," Campbell said. "I was at the YMCA, and I was just jogging around the track and threw up all over the place. I didn't think I had it. It took me two days to just decide to do the workout."
He immediately quit his pack-a-day habit. Eventually, he got in shape. And he got another chance to play when an uncle of an ex-girlfriend recommended him to Division II California (Pa.) University. He started four games there, got an invite to an all-star game, ran a 4.33 40 at 210 pounds, and caught the attention of the Titans, who picked him in the seventh round.
Not many people have chances at redemption, and it's great to see Campbell making the best of every opportunity he currently has.