By Josh Peterson, editor
Two years ago Lance Campbell thought about quitting football.
The Manchester native was bogged down with coursework, a part-time job and trying to fulfill the full-time obligations that come with playing football for a Division-1 football program.
But somewhere along the line he decided the experience of completing his career as a scholarship football player for Middle Tennessee State University was worth the exhaustion that comes with it. Saturday Campbell ran through the tunnel at Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro on senior day and was recognized in front of the home crowd before MTSU played host to UTEP.
“The friendships I’ve made doing this with some of the people on the team are the best [memories],” explained Campbell, who graduated from Coffee County Central High School in 2010 and made the MTSU football team the following fall as a walk on. He eventually earned a football scholarship before his junior year.
“Getting to travel every weekend and play. Getting out there and getting some snaps. Things like that I’ll remember,” Campbell added.
Technically, this season would be Campbell’s redshirt junior season. But because he is set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and plans to pursue his master’s degree after that, he decided to bypass one more year of eligibility with the Blue Raiders next season.
“I will have my degree so I went ahead and did my senior day now,” he explained.
Campbell hasn’t dressed all year because of a knee injury that occurred late in spring practice. But prior to that he was getting reps on the offensive line during the spring and he did find the field on special teams throughout the 2012 season.
“It was one of the last practices of spring ball when I hurt my knee,” Campbell explained. “I decided to take a medical redshirt and finish out my last year and get my degree.”
When Campbell started the pursuit of his college football career he admittedly didn’t see himself making it this far. After his sophomore season he picked up a part-time job and thought about leaving the program.
“That first year was pretty tough,” he said. “Then there was a point in my sophomore year when I debated not going through with it but I stuck through it and ended up earning a scholarship at the beginning of my junior year.
“It’s tough. At first I was paying for school, having to take care of food and toward the end of my sophomore year I picked up a job on the weekends to help with that and it got tough. I just decided somewhere in there that it was worth more than giving it up just because I was tired … it was worth fighting through.”
Andy Giel, who is currently an assistant football coach at Franklin County High School, coached Campbell as an offensive lineman at CHS and said he isn’t surprised by his success.
“I am extremely proud of Lance,” said Giel. “His ability to walk on and earn a scholarship shows his dedication and work ethic. He is a fine young man and I am thankful I had the opportunity to coach him.”
Campbell added that his parents – Pam and Gene Campbell – have been a big factor in his dedication to the sport he loves.
“My parents get the blunt of any kind of conflict that I have and need to talk about. My whole family, really … they have all been there for me.”
MTSU beat UTEP 48-17 Saturday to finish the regular season 8-4 overall. The Blue Raiders are bowl eligible and are awaiting an invitation to a postseason game. Possible bowl destinations for MTSU are the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla. or the Hawaii Bowl.