Maryland sophomore linebacker Chance Campbell’s only official visit as a recruit came the weekend before early signing day in December 2017. The Calvert Hall star had been committed to Maryland football since May and had visited campus several times, but official weekends come with much more hoopla and a packed itinerary.
In the middle of it all, though, Campbell found time to work out before Saturday morning breakfast. This was normal for him — he hadn’t worked out fewer than five days a week since his freshman year — but it’s almost unheard of for a prospect on his official visit. Then-Terps linebackers coach Matt Barnes told Campbell’s parents he had never seen it.
“He doesn’t miss his schedule,” Rick Campbell, Chance’s father, recalls telling Barnes that morning. “He’s not gonna tell you. He’s not gonna run around pounding his chest, but he went to the gym in this hotel at 5:30 this morning. That’s where he was for an hour and a half.”
Chance Campbell, a native of Towson, Md., was a ball of energy long before he grew to be 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. He was the 2-year-old who climbed everything — if his parents turned their backs for a minute, he’d somehow be on top of a five-foot bookcase when they looked back. He has also been a straight-A student his whole life and a coach’s son whose football IQ always seemed to have him one step ahead of everyone else on the field.
It’s increasingly uncommon for high-level football recruits to play a second sport throughout high school. But in addition to being a two-time All-Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference selection at linebacker for Calvert Hall, Campbell was also a faceoff specialist and defensive midfielder for the Cardinals’ perennial powerhouse lacrosse team, which he helped lead to a conference title in 2017. Maryland men’s lacrosse coach John Tillman actually extended an offer to Campbell his freshman year, but Campbell knew he wanted to play football in college.
The nature of football recruiting doesn’t favor prospects who play another sport during the spring. That’s when several of the top camps and showcases take place, presenting the best chances for less-heralded players to turn heads. Campbell, though, remained loyal to his lacrosse teammates and head coach Bryan Kelly. He was the No. 20 football player in the state, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, but skipping those showcases kept him his stock from rising.
“It was tough because it’s an era where recruiting is really kind of taking a different shape. Those camps are really crucial for guys to get looked at, noticed and offered,” Campbell said. “But I had some important people and people I love in my life [tell] me, ‘If you really love a sport and you think you can play there, people will come find you.’ So I think you play the sports that you want to play and let the rest of that take care of itself.”
As a football player, Campbell’s work ethic and a gradual growth spurt helped him develop from a junior varsity player to varsity safety to four different linebacker positions, plus fullback for good measure. His defining performance for the Cardinals came in the 2017 Turkey Bowl against Loyola Blakefield; Campbell recorded double-digit tackles, intercepted a pass and scored two touchdowns on offense.
“He would see things that we didn’t see,” Rick Campbell said, recalling a play during which Chance recorded a sack even though he wasn’t supposed to blitz. The then-junior explained he had noticed the offensive lineman’s tendencies and hand position and knew within one step that he had a path to the quarterback.
Campbell had 17 public offers at the time of his commitment, including 10 from Power 5 schools. But he wanted to stay home. He pledged to Maryland May 26, 2017, one day after winning the MIAA lacrosse title. The Terps’ staff was especially well-suited to develop linebackers: in addition to Barnes, head coach DJ Durkin and defensive coordinator Andy Buh had both played and coached the position.
By the time Campbell took the field in a Maryland uniform, though, the entire coaching staff’s future was in question. Durkin had been placed on administrative leave following Jordan McNair’s death in June 2018. The assistants remained through the season, but the Terps had an entirely new staff in place the following spring.
Michael Locksley’s staff, though, included Cory Robinson, whom Campbell had known since middle school. Before coaching at Maryland, Robinson co-founded Next Level Nation, a Baltimore-based travel football program. He left to become the Terps’ director of player personnel, and after stints at Toledo, Temple and Rutgers, he returned home to coach Maryland’s defensive backs.
Campbell is also in the same linebacker room as Baltimore native Shaq Smith, who played at Calvert Hall and St. Frances before spending a year at IMG Academy in Florida and winning two national titles in three years at Clemson. Maryland’s 2018 recruiting class also included St. Frances left tackle Jaelyn Duncan, whom Campbell had played against as well. The Terps are continuing to add familiar faces from the Baltimore area.
“It’s cool watching how small the world can be,” Campbell said. “Maybe not necessarily circles completely connecting when you’re younger, but then getting older and finding your paths cross, that’s cool.”
Last season, Campbell appeared in 11 contests and registered 10 tackles. Most of those came on special teams, though, as Maryland leaned heavily on veterans Tre Watson and Isaiah Davis and didn’t frequently rotate linebackers. This year, Campbell is a fixture in an inside linebacker rotation that also includes Davis and redshirt sophomore Ayinde Eley.
While Campbell hasn’t registered any starts in 2019, his playing time and production are increasing every week. He had 20 tackles through the Terps’ first five games, including a career-high six tackles in a 59-0 loss to Penn State Sept. 27. He also grabbed his first career interception in a 20-17 loss to Temple Sept. 14. For the coaches, Campbell is a shining example of good practice showing up on the stat sheet.
“He’s an effort guy. He’s a mentally, physically tough guy who does everything you coach him to do, exactly how you coach him to do it,” Locksley said. “[His production is] a byproduct of, if you practice that way, typically in games you’ll perform that way.”
Ask Campbell about his stats and he’ll shrug them off, saying he cares more about winning. But there’s something to be said for constant work translating into results. And to those who have seen him overcome a relative lack of exposure as a recruit and adjust to a whole new coaching staff after one year of college, it means that much more.
“It’s so rewarding for me to watch him work through adversity. That’s the only time you find out about someone’s character,” Rick Campbell said. “That’s just rewarding for me, to see the joy he has when he’s playing.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Issue 258: October 2019