MORGANTOWN W.Va- George Campbell will run out of the tunnel and onto the field against James Madison in an unfamiliar and generally unexpected place. While playing into his senior season of college isn’t out of the ordinary, his path that lead him to Morgantown, West Virginia’s country roads also acts as a metaphor for the first three years of his collegiate career; long, winding, and often bumpy.
As a consensus five star recruit out of East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, Florida, Campbell was rated just higher than current NFL players Kyler Murray, Derrius Guice and Christian Wilkins, and just lower than Calvin Ridley and Derwin James. Campbell fit right in. With 18 touchdowns as a junior in high school, Campbell flew up the recruiting rankings and onto the very top of some of the most elite collegiate programs radars. After accepting his offer to play in the 2015 Under-Armor All American game, Campbell topped off his high school career with 62 receptions for 880 yards and 12 touchdowns. After officially ending his recruitment with a letter of intent to Florida State University, the sky appeared to be the limit for the 6-foot-4 wideout.
Four seasons and two hip surgeries later, Campbell managed only 13 receptions for the Seminoles, totaling 206 yards for his career. Seeking a change of scenery and a chance to finish his college career in his own hands, the stage for his transfer to Morgantown was set. With the Mountaineers losing their four leading receivers from the season before, the team lacked size and experience, two things that Campbell could provide.
With Campbells path to Morgantown as a single-season grad transfer, it can’t help but be compared to with Kenny Bigelow’s transfer last season. While the two offer completely different skillsets, at two different positions, their story remains very similar. Dana Holgersen gave Bigelow a chance to close his collegiate career on a high note after an injury filled stint at USC, and he took advantage of it in a big way, quickly becoming a fan favorite for the Mountaineers. Bigelow started all twelve games for WVU with 15 solo tackles, two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss en route to being named to the All-Big 12 Second Team as a D-Lineman and having a shot at NFL training camp.
While not cracking the first unofficial depth chart released by the Mountaineers, Campbell’s energy and athleticism have not gone unnoticed during the first four practices of the spring, most notably by junior wide receiver T.J. Simmons.
“He’s an athlete. A lot of times you don’t think of a bigger guy being that fast and can move that well. Just like (new teammate) Bryce Wheaton, they both use their strides very well, and they can get up on defenders and get out really quick,” said Simmons
A former wide receiver transfer himself, Neal Brown understands the opportunity Campbell is getting at a new program , and having the opportunity to finish things off the right way.
“He has great energy. (It’s a) new opportunity for him. Really a chance at redemption in his career. It hasn’t gone the way he wanted it to, and he’s got a chance to bounce back here and end it successfully,” said Brown.
Before his arrival, the Mountaineers were without a senior wide reciever in the locker room, so it could end up that Campbell will do just as much for the team as a leader, as he will on the field. Besides his leadership presence, Brown has said that he likes the energy that Campbell brings to the team, comparing him to T.J. Simmons in that regard, as two high-energy personalities in the locker room.
As we inch closer to the season opener, only time will tell what kind of impact Campbell can make for the Mountaineers this season. With the kind of story he has, it will be easy to root for him, and this could turn into another instance where he turns into a fan favorite early on for the Mountaineers.