Sept. 24, 2012
|BLACKOUT OF THE CENTURY
Thursday, Sept. 27 | 6 pm | CenturyLink Field
Buy Tickets | Gear Up | Gameday Central | TV: ESPN
Sept. 24, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Don't judge DiAndre Campbell by numbers. Not yet, anyway.
No one else, from Oakland, Calif., to UW, does.
Though Campbell has started just one game in his college career - and that wasn't until this month - the redshirt sophomore wide receiver is as respected as any current Husky.
How respected? How many quarterbacks say this about his No. 4 receiver?
"It's just an honor to play with him," quarterback Keith Price said after Monday's practice for Washington's test Thursday at 6 p.m. against eighth-ranked Stanford at CenturyLink Field (ESPN, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with another exclusive real-time chat).
Kasen Williams had a game-high six catches with a touchdown the last time Washington (2-1) played, in its 52-13 race past Portland State Sept. 15 before last weekend's bye. Yet after that game he was more excited talking about Campbell's first career score that day than he was his own, big afternoon.
"Man, I'm so happy for him," said Williams, the 2010 national high school player of the year. "He's one of those guys who does everything right. No one works harder - at everything."
Price also gushes about the former star at Oakland Tech High School who has waited two years for a chance that is finally emerging this month.
"Oh, man, he's just so hungry!" Price said. "And that's just DiAndre. He wants to be the best receiver. And he feels that he's the best receiver. I think that's how anyone should feel, that anytime you are on the field that you are the best. It's always good to have a guy like that who is willing to learn and wants to take that next step.
"DiAndre is so smart, it's unreal. He tries to coach me on my reads. ... He has a great feel for the game."
The man who persevered through a redshirt 2010 and then mothballs in 2011 is probably going to be dialed in with Price again Thursday. With senior James Johnson out following an injury from August and opponents focusing on Williams plus tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins as Price's primary receiving targets, Campbell is poised for more opportunities against Stanford.
"We've always said the guys that know what they are doing play faster. You appear faster than you are, you appear confident, and you play better. And `Dre is a perfect example of that," wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty said. "He's a guy that knows every single spot in the receiving corps. He knows all four of the positions. So it's helped him play faster and more confident.
"He's a smart kid to begin with. But he really worked at it, hard, these first couple years. Even when he wasn't getting the playing time that he wanted he kept on working at it."
This respect extends far beyond the field. So does Campbell's conscientiousness.
He is the leader of the UW chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an ultra-respected national group that has honored Huskies basketball coach Lorenzo Romar, among others.
Campbell is spending some of his off-the-field time organizing meetings and growing FCA membership among Husky student-athletes in the 2011-12 academic year. Classes for that began Monday.
"Just trying to lead by example," he said.
That's in life as well as football.
He grew up attending the Refreshing Fountain Church of God in Christ just below Laney College and Lake Merritt his hometown of Oakland, where his grandfather was a pastor. He still goes to Berkeley Mount Zion in the East Bay.
His father Stanley works for Firestone tire company. His mother Alfreda Lyons Campbell is a gospel recording artist. She was on tour to the East Coast last month but returned in time to attend the Huskies' opening win over San Diego State Sept. 1.
She and her husband were both at CenturyLink Field two Saturdays later. Hopefully they got there on time.
With freshmen wide outs Jaydon Mickens and Kendyl Taylor still learning coach Steve Sarkisian's offense, Campbell got his first start in his 16th career game. Then, not even 4 minutes into a rout, Price found Campbell racing past the Portland State defense for a 20-yard touchdown pass for DiAndre's first career score.
The Campbells could have been excused for singing "Hallelujah!" over the touchdown. It was almost three years since DiAndre's last one.
Campbell was a star receiver and basketball scorer who also ran track at Oakland Tech. He usually played in front of a few dozen students and family members scattered in bleachers at the field behind the high school just north of downtown Oakland that baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, former San Francisco 49ers and Stanford All-America quarterback John Brodie plus Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch attended.
Campbell had 28 touchdowns, 490 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009 as a senior at Tech. Those totals led the Oakland Athletic League, which routinely produces multiple Division-I scholarship recipients each season.
Campbell had offers from Arizona State, Cal Poly, Utah, and San Jose State. But he committed to UW - before ever seeing its campus.
"I committed before I got here, because I knew Coach Sark was an offensive-minded coach - he ran a pro-style offense at SC," Campbell said. "So I thought that learning his offense, it would be easy to transfer over to the NFL if that was where I was going to go to.
"They were a team on the rise, so I just said, `OK.'"
Campbell said he wasn't fully committed until his official recruiting trip to watch the Huskies dismantle California, the school up the street from where he grew up, 42-10 on Dec. 5, 2009. He was struck with the energy in the UW program and the Husky Stadium crowd.
"It was just a great experience. The fans. The atmosphere on the game," he said. "It was just awesome."
The next two years? Not so much.
"A lot of guys come into college being `The Man.' They've been highly recruited. To go from being `The Man' to having to wait your turn is difficult," Campbell says now. "It's a real learning experience and allows you to grow up and realize not everything is going to go your way.
"The adverse times - obviously not playing as much - it can get hard on you mentally. But just pushing through that made me a stronger man, a stronger wide receiver -- a stronger football player, period.
His coaches noticed his work ethic, even when it seemed they didn't.
"Some of it, yes, the kid himself has to have the belief that he is going to make it through those hard times. It's the ol' what do you do when no one's watching sort of thing," said Dougherty, who has been with Sarkisian at UW since they arrived together in January 2009. "Not that we aren't always watching, but when you are not starting (it becomes, are) you still working and working on improving your game in all facets?
"It's those guys that end up playing in the end."
Campbell is one of those guys now, likely to start again opposite Williams Thursday night. His speed outside could be key -- if UW's remade offensive line can give Price time to find him against Stanford's rugged defense.
He said the breakout against Portland State "definitely gave me more confidence. Coaches have a lot more confidence in me. It just went a long ways. It was easier to just go out on the field, knowing they have confidence in me."
"What really allows me to play faster is knowing the game plan."
The way he knows Washington's each week, those numbers may soon become more a measure of Campbell to those outside the Huskies program.
"Yes, when he has gotten the opportunity he's made the best of it," Dougherty. "It's the next-man-up mentality.
"He's doing a great job for us."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Sarkisian announced starting G Colin Tanigawa is out for the season due to injury. A starter since the 2011 opener, Tanigawa hasn't played since Week 2 at LSU. His loss means UW will again have four first-year starters flanking senior C Drew Schaefer on the offensive line Thursday. ... Now that school has resumed, the Huskies will practice in the early mornings, generally starting at 8:15. Sarkisian had changed the practice schedule to mornings for the first time at UW in the spring and had players in early-morning walkthroughs practices during August. "We've been so wired into the morning practice schedule," Sarkisian said. "I'm hopeful the challenges aren't nearly as big as they have been in the past. This is part of the reason why we went to the a.m. practice format, so that our guys could be fresh and energized at the start of the morning really focused on football then have the rest of the day to get their class work done." Players have raved about the morning practice times this year.