Perryton Native Signs with the NFL

After Caleb Campbell, a Perryton native, graduated from Perryton High School in 2003, he went to the United States Military Academy at West Point to play football.

A talented player, he was captain of the Army football team, two-time defensive MVP, and was the only freshman to be a USA Conference all-conference player. He was on the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division 1A football all-star team, and he was named to the preseason Lott Trophy watch list (for the best defensive player in the nation) two times.

In 2008, the Detroit Lions drafted him in the seventh round, making him the second—and highest—draft pick to ever come out of West Point and the first player in West Point history to be invited to and attend the NFL Combine. The understanding was that Caleb could play that fall, delaying his five-year active duty requirement for the military.

Unfortunately, after Caleb was drafted, the government overruled Army’s policy, requiring him—and any other future professional athlete—to serve two years before requesting leave from active duty. Although some in his situation would have reacted negatively, Caleb showed poise and maturity in the national limelight. But last week, Caleb was able to complete was was started two years ago when he signed a contract with the Lions.

We caught up with Caleb to see what he’s been doing during the past two years and to see what the coming months might have in store for this talented Perryton grad.

Perryton: How have the last two years—and the policy revisions—affected you?

Caleb: You know, a lot of people ask me if I was bitter and had hate in my heart because of what happened to me. To persevere through West Point, get drafted, and have all my dreams in front of me as a reality, and then to have someone take it away from me—I’ll admit that it hurt. It really did, but things are going to happen in this lifetime that are not according to our plans. There are two things that we can do. We can hurt from it and become bitter. Or we can embrace the pain and allow it to make us better people.

People have to realize that there is strength that is enshrined in weakness. There is power in pain. It’s something that today’s culture completely undermines and defies. It goes with the scripture, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (II Cor. 12.9-10).

With that being said, over the last two years, I have matured in ways as a person—on and off the field—that I never thought were possible. It has been a true blessing.

People talk about all the money that I could have made and the car deals and Nike deals that I had. But in all realization, how long can material things last? These two years have built character, and character is what matters in a person’s life. It is who you are. It allows you to grow, so you can fulfill your destiny. It is great to have nice things in life, but they come and go. Who you are as a person stays with you and carries on into eternity. You can’t take anything with you but who you are. I strongly believe that. Great works are truly done in deep waters.

So I hope that anyone who might read this and who is going through some tough times knows that it is a test. Embrace it and allow it to make you a better person. You always have a choice to wake up in the morning knowing that today is going to be a great day no matter what.

Perryton: What have you done during your two years of service since you were initially drafted?

Caleb: When I first got back from Detroit, they had me as a graduate assistant, and I helped coach the team at Army. From there, I began working in the Center for Enhanced Performance at West Point. It is a program that develops the full potential of cadets through comprehensive performance psychology. I worked on the athletic side with football athletes, teaching them time management, how to deal with stress on and off the field, breathing techniques, and visualization techniques. I used it a lot while at West Point, so I got pretty good with it.

After that, I went and trained with the bobsled athletes and did that for awhile. I had to report back to West Point until I had to report to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for some officer training.

Perryton: Tell us more about bobsledding.

Caleb: Bobsledding was quite the adventure. These athletes were some of the best athletes that I have ever been around. The speed, explosiveness, and pure power were unreal. It definitely helped develop me into a better athlete for football, allowing me to gain more speed and explosiveness.

The first time I was in a sled, though, I thought I was going to die. But then you slowly get used to it. After your first wreck, it isn’t too bad because you know what to expect. But the idea of going down a track with your head between your legs, reaching speeds up to 90 to 95 mph is quite the rush. I used to be afraid of roller coasters, but after bobsledding for awhile, I got on a roller coaster and had an awesome time. It felt so slow!

I really would like to get back into the sport in the future and maybe start to learn how to drive a sled. I guess we will see.

Perryton: What will the next year look like for you? Are you moving to Detroit?

Caleb: I had minicamp last weekend. Then for the next six weeks or so, we will have offseason, which is called Organized Training Activity (OTAs). It’s pretty much practice but with no pads; it’s just time to understand the scheme and get in shape. There will be a few weeks off before training camp, which will begin in late July. The team will start making cuts every week in training camp, and then it will move into preseason when the team will continue to make cuts.

I won’t be moving to Detroit full-time until I actually make the team, and that won’t be known until the season really starts in August. I could be cut any time before then. I guess we will see. But if I do make the team, I’ll also be working with the Michigan National Guard to fulfill my commitment.

Perryton: How has your hometown played into everything?

Caleb: Perryton has been great with their support. It really means a lot to me to know that my hometown is behind me through this whole process. Going home and seeing everything is great. My life is pretty hectic and always on the move, so it is always nice to get home and relax and eat some La Casita!

Perryton is my roots. It’s where I am from. It’s where I spent countless hours in the gym, training, and dreaming of one day playing in the NFL. It has helped mold and develop me into the person I am today, and I will never, ever forget my roots.


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