By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
If football players come with expectations, then Hilldale’s Bradley Campbell is different from most.
He had no idea what to expect nor did the Hornets’ coaches when he decided to try out after sitting out of the game for the past two seasons.
He’s become a valued starter in the secondary and wide receivers corps.
Who would’ve thought that? Certainly not Campbell.
“I played football in the fifth to eighth grade and then I quit,” he said. “Everybody was getting bigger and I was staying the same. I didn’t play a lot in middle school.”
But Campbell grew three inches each of the last two years to his current height of 6-foot-1. He thought about trying football again.
“I came out and got a big surprise,” he said. “I was starting. That shocked me. I didn’t know I would get as much playing time as I am now.”
Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart has been pleasantly surprised about Campbell’s development.
“He’s been a bright spot for us,” Kirkhart said of the 165-pound junior. “I saw him play basketball and knew he could jump and was athletic. He’s a high-energy guy who played hard. We hoped he could help us.”
Campbell has been a big help on both sides of the ball for the Hornets, who close their regular season tonight against Westville. His four interceptions at left cornerback rank second on the team behind Jamaul Cullom and he has 17 catches for 279 yards and three touchdowns as an outside receiver.
With anything new, it took Campbell a little time to learn, particularly the defense. He was a quick study as he got an interception against Stigler quarterback Cade Shearwood in his first varsity start.
He had two against Keys, returning one for 35 yards for a touchdown. Kirkhart has been impressed.
“He’s one of our better guys in the secondary and at receiver in catching and running with the football,” the Hilldale coach said.
“It didn’t take us long to notice that. Bradley’s good against the run, too. It was just a matter of getting comfortable once he was out on the field.”
Now that he’s at ease on the field, getting an interception is what Campbell enjoys the most.
“I can’t explain it. I catch the ball and I can hear the fans,” he said. “Coach comes over and slaps you. It feels great.”
Campbell hopes to get a few slaps tonight as the Hornets, 4-1 in District 3A-7 and 7-2 overall, clash with theYellowjackets (0-5, 1-8). He’s not taking the record for granted as Hilldale battles looking ahead to starting the playoffs next week as the district runner-up.
“We can’t overlook them because underdogs can come back and beat you,” he said. “All of us are going to play to the best of our abilities. It doesn’t matter if they’re 1-8 or 8-1. We’re going to play Westville like it’s our first-round playoff game.”