By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
9:47 AM EDT, May 17, 2014
When the Ravens drafted Wake Forest wide receiver Michael Campanaro, he immediately had something in common with a new teammate.
Both Campanaro and five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith are short in stature, with each listed at 5-foot-9. Campanaro weighs 192 pounds, seven more than Smith, who signed a three-year, $11 million contract with the Ravens in March.
Campanaro regards Smith's guidance as invaluable.
"It helps a ton," Campanaro said as the Ravens started their rookie minicamp Friday. "I go out there and I'm with the receivers, Steve and I are definitely the smallest, shortest guys there. He is a Hall of Fame receiver.
"He's gotten it done for so many years. Having a guy like that who I can learn from him and see the little things he does preparing with his game, it's going to help out a ton."
The River Hill graduate is a shifty presence, finishing his career with the Demon Deacons with a school-record 229 receptions for 2,506 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at the NFL scouting combine and had a 39-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times, superior workout numbers to NFL slot receivers like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola when they were entering the league.
Campanaro also has a background as a high school running back who rushed for 1,848 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior for a Class 2A state championship team.
Campanaro's elusiveness in tight quarters comes in handy as a slot receiver.
“I think it helps out a ton," Campanaro said. "Just understanding when you’re in the middle in traffic just carrying the ball, protecting the ball, and knowing how to not take the big hits and just make some plays, make guys miss after the catch and know where the sticks are.”
The Clarksville native was worried that his hometown team wasn't going to draft him when they picked Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning in the sixth round.
Then, the Ravens traded their 2015 sixth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to acquire Campanaro with a seventh-round selection.
"I knew they didn’t have a seventh, and then once they picked in the sixth, my girlfriend is a huge Ravens fan, so she started talking crap about the Ravens," Campanaro said. "She went over, she was sitting with my mom, and she was like, ‘I can’t believe the Ravens didn’t [pick you],’ and then they traded back into the draft, so she was excited. A lot of people were.”
Campanaro's family had divided loyalties as Ravens fans as Howard County residents, which has plenty of Washington Redskins fans. That's changing now, though.
"It’s probably split," he said. "I think after the draft, it’s 100 percent Ravens, but there were a lot of Ravens fans with me when I got the call.
"I was honestly split, but I went to more Ravens games growing up. I was at all of the playoff games, watching Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis – all the greats. I was at a lot of Ravens games.”
So far, Campanaro feels like he's off to a good start in his first week in the NFL.
"It’s been great," he said. "It's been a lot just getting into the playbook and getting a lot thrown at us right now. You feel like a freshman in college a little bit, but it’s been good just getting to meet some of the older guys, work out with the guys and getting into the playbook.
"Right now, I’m just learning the playbook. We’ve got a Hall of Fame receiver in there in Steve Smith, so it’s good just watching him and learning from a guy like that, and Torrey [Smith] and Jacoby [Jones]. I think I could help out the team in any way, special teams and offense. I’m just going to keep working hard and see where I end up.”