Detroit Lions linebacker Caleb Campbell is the only former active-duty soldier in the NFL. Most people know his story: He graduated from West Point in 2008 and was drafted by the Lions, but the Army prevented him attending training camp after initially allowing it. Campbell, an artillery officer, served two years before leaving the Army earlier this summer to pursue a career in pro football.
Campbell is still with the Lions, but his job security is as tenuous as it gets in the NFL. As a member of the practice squad, Campbell is essentially auditioning every day. Even if he progresses at his position, he could be cut at any time because of other roster needs on the team. And just like that, he could be out of the league.
But as Campbell explained to the Detroit News this week, that’s not the only pressure he feels day-to-day. His decision to apply for early release from active duty is never far from his mind, as are the soldiers he once served with. His best friend, Jake Watson, was seriously wounded in an IED explosion in Afghanistan last week. After getting the news from Watson’s wife, Campbell told the paper that incidents like that amplify the guilt he sometimes struggles with.
“He’s my best friend; God bless him,” Campbell told the paper. “They are over there putting their lives in harm’s way and I’m here playing football. We all serve in our way, but that’s where I initially had my battles.
“I wondered if I was doing the right thing (playing football). But I talked to all my boys and they reaffirmed that I was doing the right thing.”
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