Jalen Campbell has had a lesson in how to handle the unexpected over the last seven months.
In March, the spring of his sophomore year at Corpus Christi Flour Bluff, Campbell attended a Rivals.com recruiting combine in Houston where he competed against the top underclassmen in East Texas. A general unknown to that point, he was reportedly dominant at the closed-to-the-outside-media event.
Rivals ranked the top defensive performers of its event and had Campbell No. 2, ahead of many highly-touted juniors.
A week after the combine, Campbell was offered by Texas. He committed to the Longhorns a week after that, at the Orange-White game on March 30.
Then, during the Flour Bluff spring game on May 23, Campbell tore his ACL and meniscus in his left knee.
It was a devastating blow at the end of his sophomore year. And he’s spent the four months since working hard to be even better when he returns.
Campbell went from a fast-rising recruit to not knowing if he had a football future in a matter of months. That, he says, was the hardest part of the rehab.
“It was really important to me to try to get over that mental hurdle real early,” the 5-11, 175-pound cornerback said. “At the beginning it was a little sad.”
It’s now been over four months since the injury and the future Longhorn says he’s on schedule to be cleared in “early December.” A visit to the doctor on Sept. 23 went well, and he’s now able to do more on his left knee.
“I got cleared to do squats and single-leg press,” he said. “I’m running curves now, too. Now I can run a full mile on the track without having to stop and walk the curves.”
The final game of the regular season is Nov. 8, and even if the Hornets go far in the 5A playoffs, Campbell won’t be suiting up for Flour Bluff in 2013. His first action on the field looks like it will be the U.S. Army National Combine – a three-day January event in San Antonio featuring 500 of the nation’s best underclassmen.
Campbell, who remains firmly committed to the Longhorns despite UT’s on-field results, is now learning how to adjust to watching his teammates play without him. This is the first time he’s been sidelined for an extended period of time.
“I’m so used to being out there. I’m so used to everyday padding up,” he said. “So being in the room with the trainer just talking about what you did last weekend while you’re working out your knee is a little bit boring.”
This isn’t the first time a recruit has blown out a knee after accepting an offer from the Longhorns. In the 2013 class alone Texas had safety Erik Huhn and linebacker Deoundrei Davis tear their ACLs before stepping foot on campus. Both are redshirting this season as they continue to rehab.
It will still take time for Campbell to go from running curves around a track to the kind of planting and cutting a defensive back must do on every snap, but despite the fact that he’ll miss the entire 2013 football season, his knee appears to be coming along and he should be good to go for his senior season next fall.
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