I spoke with 1st Lt. Caleb Campbell yesterday to find out where he is in the process of leaving active duty and pursing a career in the NFL.
Campbell is still on active duty and is stationed at Fort Sill, Okla., where he’s completing the Army’s BOLC II course. Graduation is scheduled for July 16, and the tentative plan is to leave active duty after that and join a field artillery unit in the Michigan National Guard. Campbell says all of his paperwork has been filed, and that all that’s left to do is graduate.
On Thursday, Campbell is heading to Detroit Lions’ rookie camp. It’ll be the second rookie camp of his career — two years ago he attended after being selected by the Lions in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. Campbell hasn’t worked out with the team in almost two years, and he said he expects to be rusty — and a little anxious.
“I’m nervous as hell. It’s gonna be funny … looking out in the locker room and seeing Ndamukong Suh and these other guys,” Campbell told After Action.
Campbell has not yet signed a contract with the Lions, but said he expects to get that completed “very, very soon.”
Other than the uniforms, the Detroit team Campbell will be signing with barely resembles the team he almost played for two years ago. The general manager, head coach, defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator and a host of players are long gone from the team that went 0-16 in 2008.
Campbell, who played safety in college, transitioned to linebacker with the Lions in 2008. But he said there is an entirely new scheme and system in place now, and learning it will be a challenge.
“These playbooks are rather extensive,” Campbell said.
Campbell has been lifting weights on post and working out with a former coach while at Sill. He’s bulked up to around 235 pounds and that’s what he hopes to keep as his playing weight.
“You want to be a big guy, but you don’t want to lose your speed,” Campbell said.
‘I was a little bitter at first’
Campbell was pretty frank when I asked him what it was like to have Army essentially pull the rug out from under him two years ago just as he was set to begin training camp with the team. As you probably remember, former Army Secretary Pete Geren changed the Army’s policy on officers playing professional sports in July 2008, putting Campbell’s dream of playing in the NFL on hold.
“It was hard,” Campbell said. “For two years they were telling me that I could play. I was definitely looking forward to it.”
The Army’s decision was panned by some and praised by others. Campbell said the soldiers he’d talked to were excited about his opportunity to make an NFL roster, and he was pretty stunned by the Army’s reversal.
“I was a little bit bitter at first,” Campbell said. “But I knew what every other soldier would have done. … I learned how to embrace the situation.”
Campbell also said the process of leaving active duty through the DoD’s early release policy has been exasperating at times.
“It’s been the most outrageous process ever,” Campbell said.
Because the policy for allowing officers to play sports is used so rarely — Campbell is actually the first to go through it since it was adopted by the Army in 2008 — officials have at times struggled to supply him with answers on what he needed to do.
“It’s such a broad policy. The language can be interpreted several different ways,” Campbell said. “I hope [my experience]shines a light on it so they can have a smoother process for guys” in the future.
If Campbell makes the Lions, part of the early release policy requires Campbell to pay back a prorated amount of the costs of his West Point education in exchange for the portion of his five-year active-duty commitment that he will not be serving. Campbell said it’s unclear at this point how much he will owe.