After passing for more than 2,000 yards last season as a junior, Calvert Hall quarterback Mike Campbell expected to lead the Cardinals to a banner year in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
Early in a win at Riverdale Baptist on Sept. 15, his role changed completely.
“It was third-and-goal … and we ran a bootleg to my left,” Campbell said. “I rolled out and the defensive end forced me back upfield, so I tried to jump back inside. He got ahold of me up around my shoulders and twisted me awkwardly on my leg and it just gave out.”
Campbell tore three of the four ligaments in his left knee. On Oct. 1, he had surgery to repair the ACL and MCL, both completely torn, he said, as well as the PCL, about 90 percent torn.
Campbell had never missed a game for injury in any sport. He’s played football and basketball since he was 6 and played both for the Cardinals.
But as he was tackled, he heard the “pop” often associated with a torn ACL. He felt a lot of pain and knew immediately, “it was going to cost me the better part [of], if not the whole, season.”
Three days after the injury, Campbell returned to the sideline on crutches, determined to help his young successor, sophomore starter Amir Jenkins, and reserve junior Sean Ketchen get comfortable with their elevated roles — while still trying to get comfortable with his own new role.
“My role now is I’ve just got to do what I can to keep the energy on the sideline and also just help Amir grow up and develop his skills, because he’s got all the talent. He’s just got to get his feet under him on the varsity level, so I’ve got to help him see the field. When he comes off, he comes and tells me what he sees and I tell him I’ve been in this situation, I know what they’re going to try to do here. I just use my experience to try to get him better,” Campbell said.
After surgery, which he said went well, Campbell returned to school Friday. He was on the sideline for the Cardinals’ 34-24 home win over Gilman, a critical test after the previous week’s 21-7 loss to No. 2 Mount Saint Joseph.
Jenkins, whose inexperience showed in the loss, threw two touchdown passes as the No. 4 Cardinals (6-1) built a 34-2 lead over Gilman.
After every possession, Campbell talked with Jenkins or Ketchen, who took over late in the past two games.
Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said Campbell’s perspective is valuable to the players and the coaches.
“I’ve been calling the game through his eyes for a year and a half,” Davis said. “He’s been kind of me on the field. Now he’s on the other side and he’s been critical even since he got injured.
“What he’s been able to do with these two young guys is just be another voice and one that makes sense to them. Not that mine or [quarterbacks coach Nashid] Coleman’s doesn’t, but he’s the guy who’s been sitting in the seat and so he’s got some timing with the receivers. He can give them that intel.”
Senior wide receiver Cole Herbert, who caught both touchdown passes from Jenkins on Friday, said Campbell is the “main team captain,” and the Cardinals still look to him as their leader.
“Mike is the type of kid that still has good spirit about it. He knows what we could have been in his senior season. He’s obviously really bummed about it and so is the team, but he always has a high spirit about coming to practice every day and trying to elevate the team,” Herbert said.
Davis called Campbell’s level of maturity about the injury “phenomenal,” and said it was particularly difficult to see his season cut short because of his exceptional work ethic, focus and no-complaint attitude.
He said the injury shouldn’t hurt Campbell’s recruiting process. The quarterback has plenty of film from last season and this season, including the Sept. 8 win over Wise, the three-time defending Class 4A state champion that had won 43 straight games.
Campbell isn’t a player who relies on his speed, so Davis said the injury won’t keep college coaches away. His 3.95 GPA won’t hurt either.
“The No. 1 thing is he’s done all he needed to do as a student,” Davis said, “and he’s not a quarterback that has relied most on his legs, so it’s not like that was his gift and now it’s gone. The way technology works now, he will be able to get himself back to the point where he can compete and there’s no expectations that he’s going to run a 4.3 40-[yard dash], because that’s not his strength.”
While being sidelined certainly is frustrating for Campbell, he believes that he can still find the right college fit for his game and that he has something to gain from being on the sideline with his team.
“I always try to think that stuff happens for a reason and there’s a plan in the greater scheme of things,” he said. “Maybe it’s something I need for later in life and I’ll sit back and look at this and it will help me out. I don’t understand it now, but maybe down the line, it’s something I’ll be thankful for.”