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JC - The High School Years

By popular demand, here's a chunk of text I found in my laptop after returning from my trip To Taylorsville and Auburn:

Campbell took the reigns at Taylorsville High School his sophomore season, and Coach Shannon White inherited a strong crop of talent when he came to the school that spring. Most kids in town had played with the same teammates in their age group since elementary school and switched from one season to the next (Taylorville high school basketball team annually starts two weeks late because the football team - with the same roster - is playing deep into the state playoffs).

White came from an option background - an old-school, ground-oriented attack - but a few games into his tenure here the Tartars were losing 27-0. Taylorsville, a 2-A school, routinely faces 4-A and 5-A competition early in the season, and, with nothing to lose, White opted to air it out. Campbell led the team to a 45-27 victory and finished 1998 with a state title.

"We ran the table after that game, and I threw the heck out of it," White said. "We became a very prolific offense."

Campbell put the team in the state finals in Jackson, Miss. on grit and guile, scrambling for his life, eventually finding a receiver downfield and pumping a difficult throw across his body to the end zone for a game-winning touchdown with time expiring. "The biggest games, those were the times when he always performed the best," White said. "He never gets rattled; his demeanor is always the same."


After Campbell won that game with his desperation pass, the field flooded with humanity. The sidelines erupted and his coaches went nuts, yelling and jumping. The teenage quarterback was tranquil. His expression never changed - no outward signs of excitement.

When Jeff Duvall, the principal at Taylorsville High School who was then a jubilant assistant coach, asked what was going through the youngster's mind, how he could be so calm, Campbell responded: "That's just what I'm supposed to do."

"I'll never forget that," Duvall said. "It was like he just went out there to do his job, and he didn't want any of the attention. He just expects to succeed and expects to win."

Campbell threw for more than 2,700 yards with 33 touchdowns that season (he was named District MVP in basketball as a junior as well) and the recruiting race was on. The following fall, ESPN came to town, spending a few days in Taylorsville to do a feature on him for "Scholastic Sports America," but their subject was about the only person not caught up in the hysteria (he later announced his decision to attend Auburn to his chruch congreagation with no fanfare). Campbell was named a 1999 Parade All American and Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi. Several publications rated him the second-best quarterback prospect in the nation.

He never spoke much about any of it, focusing on his weaknesses instead and devoting every free minute to training. White's summers were spent outdoors - suffocating in the sticky heat - rising early to help Campbell improve his footwork and 40-yard dash times. He threw as many passes as he could each day. He was relentless in his quest to be better.

"Jason is a very confident kid, but being talented isn't part of his thinking process," White said. "He thinks he has to work for everything. He was crazy about working. He is never satisfied with where he's at, and he works so hard at it. He has such a work ethic."

It's just high school, but since some were wondering about his mentality, there ya have it. He does get fired up - he was pumped after that 10-yard first down scramble Sunday - and showed it on the field, but he is excels at taking things in stride.

Notes: Troy Vincent says he expects to practice today and is hamstring, while not 100 percent, is feeling better. Jon Jansen is still walking gingerly with a calf strain, and is clearly hobbled by it. I don't expect him to practice but he is aiming to play Sunday, and I suspect he will with a little rest.

By Jason La Canfora  |  November 29, 2006; 2:18 PM ET
 
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