He’s been the varsity starter since his freshman year. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder finished second in the state in passing yards, was named to various small-school All-State teams, and was honored as the first-team quarterback on an all-sophomore team chosen by Student Sports, a magazine published by the recruiting web site Rivals.com.
Campbell isn't a top-100 blue-chipper, but he has the tools to at least follow the footsteps of his predecessor, Ben Maur, a sometime starter for Wake Forest.
And that’s not all. Thanks to a judge named Gary F. McKinley, Campbell, along with teammate Jesse Howard, is also now the latest example of how people who should know better bend over backward for athletes, proving once again that pampered jocks with an outsized sense of entitlement are made, not born.
Campbell and Howard are being punished for their role in a prank that ended up severely injuring two teens — but the punishment doesn’t start until after the football season is over. And you thought such preferential treatment was reserved for elite pros like Jamal Lewis.
"I shouldn’t be doing this," McKinley said as he declared Campbell and Howard could wait to serve their 60-day juvenile hall sentence after the Wildcats’ season is over — but he did it anyway. McKinley knew his decision was so outrageous, he stated he would charge anyone in the standing-room-only courtroom who committed an "outburst" with contempt of court. "I’m cutting you somewhat of a break here, and the court will get criticized for this," McKinley told Campbell.
Consider this part of the criticism. By allowing for the players to complete their football season before serving their sentence, McKinley has, at the least, perpetuated the perception that elite athletes — at any level — get preferential treatment.
Given how professionalized and organized so many sports are on even the lowest levels, McKinley is right to believe that any time away from football could hinder any high school player’s shot at a college or NFL future. But it’s hard to believe McKinley would have made the same ruling had the players been part of the astronomy club. Would have he had said, OK, here’s your sentence, but you can wait until after the next Persied meteor shower being you report to detention?
This is a particularly sensitive issue right now in a state where the offseason arrest of five Cincinnati Bengals — one of them, Chris Henry, has been arrested four different times — and the criminal meltdown of former high school and Ohio State star Maurice Clarett has even football-mad Ohioans doubting the healing powers of the gridiron. It’s not scientific, but a Columbus Dispatch online poll of whether readers agree with the judges’ decision should have McKinley pining for the wild popularity of George W. Bush. The poll, as of Wednesday night, was 92 percent against the judge, 8 percent for.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The other three defendants — Joshua Lowe, Taylor Rogers, and Campbell’s favorite receiver, Corey Manns — pleaded not guilty, and their cases are still winding their way through the court system. (Though all five accused are juveniles, the Kenton Times, the Columbus Dispatch, and Kenton radio station WKTN successfully fought to have their names released. A grand jury had indicted all five on adult felony charges.)
McKinley, a retired Union County judge brought into neighboring Hardin County after a local judge recused himself from the case, didn’t just sentence Campbell and Howard to 60 days in juvenile hall. McKinley also put them on house arrest until they serve their sentence, and for six months after detention. He also ordered them to pay fines and restitution, write individuals 500-word essays on "Why I should think before I act," and ordered Campbell and Howard to complete 1,500 and 500 hours of community service, respectively.
It wasn’t the sentence the victims’ families were looking for, but it’s not a total slap on the wrist, either. However, the idea that Campbell and Howard, unlike most people, would get a reprieve from serving their sentence thanks to their status as athletes doesn’t leave a very good taste in their mouth. "I see positive things about participating in football," McKinley told Campbell in court.
Maybe McKinley should be writing that essay. Statistics are split in terms of whether athletes are any more criminal than anyone else — when measured against the total young male populace, no, when measured against non-athletic college students, yes. But no medical journal has yet illustrated the healing powers of football.
Maybe it works for some. It certainly didn’t for Bengals rookie A.J. Nicholson. His college coach, Bobby Bowden, refused to suspend Nicholson after his 2005 arrest on a DUI charge, for which he later was put on probation. "There’s more ways to discipline than a dadgum suspension," Bowden told reporters at that year’s ACC football preseason media gathering. "I’m going to handle our problems."
Reform through football worked so well for Nicholson, Bowden had to reverse course and kicked him off the team before the 2006 Orange Bowl for an alleged rape (for which charges have never been filed).
Meanwhile, as a Bengal, he’s still dealing with burglary and grand theft charges left over from his days at Florida State.