De’Vondre Campbell (Hutchinson, Ks./Hutchinson Community College) recently committed to the Vols and loves the next challenge in his football career.
“A big reason I committed to Tennessee was that they really paid attention to me,” Campbell said. “There, I have a connection with the coaches. It’s a big school in the SEC and it’s a place where I never thought I would ever get an offer. I was an unknown in high school. I didn’t have that big résumé. I didn’t have hype. But here I am and I will make an impact at Tennessee.”
Campbell, 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, played his high school football for Fort Myers (Fla.) Cypress Lake High School. Then, an inch shorter and 25 pounds lighter, Campbell went virtually unnoticed.
“Nobody was recruiting me,” Campbell said. “Nobody. And to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to play college football. I was playing in this all-star game and I was having a great practice. I think I had three or four sacks and there was a coach there from Hutchinson. I didn’t have a name back then and I graduated high school with a 3.0 [GPA]. I didn’t go the juco route because of grades. I just had no other choice because I had no looks or anything like that.”
Campbell redshirted this past season and had a good spring.
“That’s when we started talking,” Campbell said. “It was about midway through spring ball. I talked with those coaches and then with coach [Derek] Dooley. I just fell in love with him. He’s just a cool dude. I haven’t been there yet but I plan on going to visit Tennessee this summer.”
In the meantime, Campbell’s focused on proving to the football world that he belongs, even in the SEC playing for the Volunteers.
“I wake up every day with a chip on my shoulder,” Campbell said. “I want to prove people wrong and that I can play this game. Tennessee sees something different in me and I am committed to Tennessee. Not many guys in my shoes can say that.
“I feel like it’s been a blessing. I can further my education and do something I love. I came from nowhere. I know in the bottom of my heart the sky’s the limit.”
Campbell also loves the defense the Vols will run in Knoxville. He believes he’s the perfect fit as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme.
“It’s perfect for me,” Campbell said. “I can run, I am athletic, I can rush the passer and cover. I grew up loving the Steelers defense, especially the linebackers they have had. I can be like those guys and do a variety of different things. I feel like my strengths are my speed and you have to have that in the SEC. I can move and do a lot of things you don’t expect a 6-5 guy to do.
“I have had to overcome a lot of things and believe me when I say I will make a big impact in Knoxville.”
Campbell plans on graduating in December and enrolling at Tennessee in January.