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Though he'll miss Maryland game, Michael Campanaro on right track at Wake Forest

FootballWake Forest Demon DeaconsMaryland TerrapinsNorth Carolina Tar HeelsDuke Blue DevilsNFL

The Wake Forest football player was alone. He sat in the silence of the locker room as the Demon Deacons' game against Duke continued, running the news through his head. Outside at BB&T Field, his teammates, parents, and thousands of screaming fans in gold and black wondered where he was, waiting for the wide receiver to make his way back to the field.

When he was ready, Michael Campanaro grabbed his phone and texted his father the results: His right hand was broken.

It was a simple reverse that cost Campanaro three to four weeks of his breakout season — a season in which he was becoming not just one of the premier weapons in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the entire nation. And what made it even more painful was the fact that it came the week before the Clarksville native would return home to play Maryland.

But while opposing coordinators will get a break from having to plan against No. 3 in the short term, the time spent away will only fuel the receiver from River Hill to come back even better.

"Anytime this kind of stuff happens, especially when you're doing well, you're going to come back hungrier," said Campanaro, who broke the fourth carpal bone.

Doing well might be an understatement. Heading into last Saturday's game, Campanaro was fifth in the nation in catches per game (nine), fourth in total receiving yards (421) and 12th in yards per game (105.3). Excluding Wake's 52-0 loss to Florida State (two catches), Campanaro was getting better every week.

In the season opener against Liberty he hauled in nine passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. In a win over North Carolina, Campanaro came two catches short of a school record with 13 receptions and 136 yards. And then came Campanaro's three-touchdown, 12-catch, 153-yard performance against Army.

"It was awesome. We were flying high every week," said his father, Attilio Campanaro. "I always had confidence in him if he were given the opportunity."

The moment that might have made Attilio realize how successful his son had actually become came during the car ride to Wake Forest for last Saturday's game. To the surprise of him and his wife, Lisa, their son's voice came over the radio during a segment on The David Glenn Show, a popular syndicated show in North Carolina.

"I couldn't even drive," Attilio said. "I just pulled to the side [of the road] and turned it up."

Campanaro's rise to prominence was the result of the junior's hard work over the years. Campanaro spent time working with his brother Nick, a personal trainer, and spent his spring break in Florida working out with NFL receivers Wes Welker (New England Patriots) and Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers).

"Just being around those guys and picking their brains was great," Campanaro said.

Coming out of River Hill, Campanaro earned Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro honors his senior year after rushing for 1,848 yards and 29 touchdowns and catching 17 passes for 266 yards and seven more scores. He finished his varsity career with more than 6,500 yards and 90 touchdowns.

With a resume like that, Campanaro entered college with a fair amount of hype. While he admits he felt a little pressure as a freshman, Campanaro's performance has begun to live up to the expectations of those in Winston-Salem and back home in Maryland.

"It's really exciting for people in the community and our guys in the [football] program to see all the effort and hard work pay off," said River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen, who still gets questions about Campanaro from coaches and others in the community.

Campanaro said he still receives support from the community through his Facebook and Twitter accounts. He estimates he receives nine to 10 pieces of fan mail from Maryland after every Wake Forest game.

But the run against Duke has put his rise on hold for the time being. Yet, his former coach and father are confident Campanaro will respond well, pointing out his naturally optimistic personality.

"He's really positive and strong mentally," his father said. "He knows this is just a bump in the road."

Campanaro jokingly tweeted he was thinking about selling his Jeep to purchase a hyperbaric chamber to speed up the recovery process.

"I don't think my parents would be too happy," Campanaro said with a laugh.

Jokes aside, the tweet offers a glimpse into just how badly No. 3 wants to return, especially against Maryland, a school he really liked. Now he must take the mindset of motivator and coach, helping those who must step up in his absence.

But the football player will always be there. He will roam the sidelines for the next few weeks, anxious to get back on the field with his team, and anxious to get back to making big plays with the eyes of a community on him.

The good that will come out of this injury is an opportunity for Campanaro to reflect on what he has accomplished thus far at Wake Forest. To him, it will be a reminder that he has a long way to go.

"I'm far from done in making my legacy at Wake Forest," Campanaro said. "I still have a lot more to prove for my school and my team."

ctrevino@baltsun.com

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