Caleb Campbell: From West Point football to… the bobsled slope?

AP Photo// Caleb Campbell doesn't exactly have your typical NFL background.

Caleb Campbell doesn't exactly have your typical NFL background. (The Associated Press)

Earlier this week, we explored the new reality for Nick Hill, the former West Point baseball pitcher who has likely completed his active-duty service to the Army and will resume a promising baseball career with the Seattle Mariners organization.

He’s not the only one to put a career in professional sports on hold, of course. Many readers will remember the situation former West Point safety Caleb Campbell was presented with last summer. Selected by the Detroit Lions in the seventh round of the NFL Draft, Campbell arrived at NFL training camp, only to be ordered by Army officials to report Officer Basic Course and prepare to join a unit.

Campbell is still on active duty, but he’s also preparing for another kind of service to his country. The New York Times explores today his effort to land a spot on the U.S. two-man Olympic bobsled team, which has a rich history of getting support from football players.


As he drove from Detroit back to West Point, Campbell received a call from the assistant United States bobsled coach Bill Tavares, asking him to try out for the team. Campbell’s only familiarity with the sport came from watching “Cool Runnings,” a Disney movie loosely based on a Jamaican bobsled team.

“I did it last year and saw some of my friends, and they would look at me and say: ‘I heard a funny joke the other day. Somebody told me you were bobsledding,’ ” Campbell said. “Nobody really knows the correlation between football and bobsledding and how much of a relationship there is until they understand the sport of bobsled.”

That relationship includes service by former NFL great and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, who competed in the 1992 Olympics on the two-man team.

Campbell is considered to have only an outside chance of making it to the Olympics, but it appears he has other plans after finishing his two-year service commitment, anyway. Again, from

After [U.S. bobsled coach Bill] Tavares’s phone call, [Campbell] returned to West Point and helped coach the football team. The competitive juices were still there. He hopes to sign with an N.F.L. team when his military commitment expires.

“I wore the uniform and I was excited to wear the uniform,” Campbell said of his duties. “In a way, it would have been a blessing to play football. But it was also a blessing not to play. I’m maturing as a man and I’m maturing as an athlete.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this one turns out, but we’re all pulling for him. Campbell doesn’t exactly have your typical NFL resume.


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I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

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