Sooner or Later, Mm, Mm, Good; Campbell Can Handle Adversity

Article excerpt


Talent, brains, close and supportive family - Jason Campbell seems to have it all. He is a college graduate, a solid citizen and soon he will sign a big contract with the Washington Redskins. It looks so easy. Yet somehow he keeps taking the rockier path.

As Auburn's starting quarterback for most of four years, playing for four offensive coordinators and learning new systems, Campbell was often criticized and occasionally booed. That ended last season, when the Tigers went 13-0. But even during the tough times he never wobbled or wavered. Campbell stood tall in and out of the pocket, transforming himself from a marginal NFL prospect into a first-round draft pick.

But instead of hearing cheers when the Redskins made him the 25th overall selection Saturday as the third quarterback taken, Campbell heard questions.


This time it wasn't as personal, but the presumed experts, fans and other interested observers wondered out loud why a team that already has Patrick Ramsey and holes at other positions would spend (waste?) valuable currency on yet another young gun.

In a city where quarterback controversies bloom with cherry blossom regularity, Campbell found himself injected into a potentially dicey situation.

How does Ramsey react with Campbell looking over his shoulder? If Ramsey succeeds, Campbell sits. And it could be interpreted that the Redskins blew the pick, which they gave up other picks to get. If Ramsey fails, Campbell might have to play before he is ready, inviting more criticism.

Among those not concerned is Jason Campbell.

"I'm glad I'm coming to Washington," he said this week after he and former Auburn teammate Carlos Rogers, a cornerback taken at No.9, were introduced at Redskin Park. "Great city, great people. ... I think this is a great honor and a dream come true."

Asked if he is ready for the type of attention and scrutiny that awaits, Campbell's response, in so many words, was, are you kidding? With no NFL or any other big league team in Alabama, college football is observed with religious fervor. The Auburn-Alabama rivalry dwarfs Redskins-Cowboys on the passion meter. When Redskins tackle Chris Samuels, who attended Alabama, saw Campbell, the first thing he said was, "Roll Tide." Campbell noted his Tigers rolled over the Tide the last three years.

A Parade All-American and the state Player of the Year, Campbell came to Auburn out of Taylorsville, Miss., (population: 2,000) amid big hype and great expectations. No question Campbell is the biggest thing to happen to Taylorsville, bigger even than when they removed the only traffic light in town and put in a four-way stop sign.

"This is something I've been through before," he said. "Everything I've been through before has helped prepare me for now. I feel confident about any situation I'm gonna face.

"People in Auburn and the state of Alabama love football. Everything is built around football. Washington is the same way. Everything is built around the Redskins. You want the fans to enjoy it. You take a lot of heat, but it's not gonna be a perfect world."

A gifted athlete, strong and mobile, Campbell stands nearly 6-foot-5 and weighs about 225 pounds. He was an outstanding basketball player in high school while being coached by his father, Larry, who also is the assistant principal and an assistant football coach, at Taylorsville High School. His mother, Carolyn, is a teacher's aide.

When Campbell was a junior in high school, his parents paid for him to work out at a facility in Hattiesburg, Miss., under the tutelage of Brett Favre's personal trainer. It wasn't cheap.

"Vacation money," Carolyn said. "But my husband said it would pay off one day."

The next year, Campbell attended a football camp run by Steve McNair, a family friend, which meant he now had bonded with the NFL's pre-eminent quarterbacks from Mississippi. …