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Michael Campbell Picks Mercer

By Barry Every
SouthernPigskin.com
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As a senior Campbell caught 38 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns, while recording 25 solo tackles, seven PBU’s and two INT’s.

“The whole staff and program really came across as being of high moral character and I felt they were just a few pieces away from making a big run. I wanted to be a part of that.”
~Michael Campbell Jr.

Darien (Ga.) McIntosh County Academy first year Head Coach Terel Toomer faced numerous personnel changes from the Buc’s 2016 State Championship run. Gone were the team’s seven leading tacklers, along with several offensive linemen and his starting signal caller. In stepped 6-foot, 170-pound cornerback Michael Campbell, Jr., who would end up doing double duty.

“We couldn’t afford to keep Michael on the bench, so we had to play him on both sides of the ball this past season,” Toomer said. “He ended up leading are team in receptions while deterring opponents from throwing to his side of the field.”

As a senior Campbell caught 38 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns, while recording 25 solo tackles, seven PBU’s and two INT’s. His hard work did not go unnoticed earning First Team All-Region as well as being named to the ESPN Coastal First Team Defense. As a junior he recorded 37 tackles, three TFL’s and one interception.

His two-way performance shouldn’t have come as a surprise; the speedster tore up the camp circuit this past spring. At the ESPFC Camp held at the Pooler Sports Complex last March, Campbell took home fastest man honors with a 4.33 40-yard dash. Later that spring he posted a 4.31 hand-held 40-yard dash while hitting an incredible 41 inches in the vertical testing at a Rivals.com Camp.

Thus began the late recruiting process for this dynamic athlete. Most players begin receiving heavy recruiting attention prior to, or during their junior season. But that was not the case for Campbell.

Eventually Army, Mercer, Tennessee Tech, Tusculum, Valdosta State and Wofford would offer scholarships. The choice was not hard for these colleges considering that Campbell was also a standout in the classroom with a 3.7 GPA and an 1100 on the SAT.

Three of the above schools threw their hats in the ring just before the early signing period, leaving Campbell with a tough decision. That decision was to bypass the early signing period, leaving his final decision till February, 7.

“The process has been very stressful considering the relationships I’ve made with all these coaches,” Campbell said. “They have all been calling me on a regular basis and sending handwritten letters and cards, saying no is not easy. But the bottom line is you can only sign with one school.”

Campbell narrowed his choices to Army, Mercer and Wofford two weeks ago, each offering a full ride. In the end one school stood out above the others and that ended up being the home-state Mercer Bears.

“Head Coach Bobby Lamb and Safeties Coach Josh Reardon just did a great job of selling their program,” Campbell said.  “The whole staff and program really came across as being of high moral character and I felt they were just a few pieces away from making a big run. I wanted to be a part of that.”

He admits his parents Michael, Sr. and Finiece played a huge role in the whole process. They escorted him to every camp, unofficial and official visit.

“I now the decision was tough on him, but his parents were their every step of the way,” Toomer said. “The only advice I gave was to not rush things and go wherever you feel most comfortable. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not where you want to spend the next four of five years of your life.”

And for those wondering what a scholarship is worth at Mercer. Well try $49,393 a year, which includes tuition, fees, room and board.

So what kind of player are the Bears getting in Campbell?

“Mercer is getting a stellar student and a super sleeper athlete,” Toomer said. “He’s going to be a kid in a year or two that will be a starter. He’ll put on 15 to 20 pounds and be a productive player; they are getting a steal in my opinion.

Campbell was not the lone Buccaneer Football player who signed on Wednesday, as he was accompanied by teammates JP Palmer and Payne Drake. Palmer chose Lenoir-Rhyne and Drake picked Reinhardt.

Campbell has one thing he would like to tell the Mercer fan base.

“Be prepared next year for this 2018 signing class, we are going to do our part in building a winning culture at Mercer,” Campbell said emphatically.