- Marissa McClain/Daily
By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published August 6, 2012
Will Campbell swears it was all baby fat.
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The senior nose guard checked into the Michigan football team’s fall camp on Monday weighing a robust 310 pounds, a far cry from 333 two years ago.
“When I was heavier I had a lot of baby fat,” Campbell said Monday. “I’m glad it’s gone.”
Campbell, a former five-star defensive lineman from Detroit’s Cass Tech High School, was tabbed as the Wolverines’ lead man in the trenches for the upcoming season and has taken the challenge to heart.
“I came in with big expectations and didn’t live up to them,” Campbell said. “Now it’s time to pay.
“I have to step up and this is the time to do it. This is my last go-round and I owe Michigan and these fans a lot.”
For a player with a career statistics line that boasts little more than 19 tackles and two sacks in three seasons at Michigan, the expectations might seem a bit steep. But Campbell isn’t shying away from the pressure.
During the off-season, Campbell solicited the advice of several former teammates — defensive linemen Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Will Heininger and Brandon Graham — three of whom are currently on NFL rosters, to help ready his game for the starting role.
The response was that Campbell needed to leave his footprint on the program — excel on the field but be a leader first from start to finish. To put himself into a position to lead the defense, though, the senior had to get himself into the best shape of his life.
“No honey buns,” Campbell said with a grin.
He cut the sweets and juice from his diet and upped the protein intake. He even tried a no-wheat diet for a week.
Campbell put in the work and his teammates have responded.
“The whole summer he’s been speaking up, being that voice for the defense,” said senior quarterback Denard Robinson. “Everybody respects him for it because he lost all that weight and you can tell he’s working his tail off.”
Robinson admitted that Campbell even ran down a few players during spring practices, catching everyone off-guard. At the Spring Game in mid-April, Campbell rolled his jersey up over his stomach to show off his new look. And he’s still quite pleased with it.
“Will shows off his stomach more than I do,” Robinson joked. “You can tell that he lost that weight.”
Campbell has already seen the weight change pay dividends. He’s quicker, more aggressive and more consistent than he was in his first three seasons.
“I’m not huffing and puffing anymore,” Campbell said. “I can move left and right way better. I feel a lot better out there.”
But Campbell insisted that his focus isn’t on himself anymore, it’s on the team. When asked why he had confidence he’d display marked improvements this season, Campbell played the leader card — he didn’t talk about himself.
“It’s the way that not just me but the whole team worked this summer,” Campbell said. “I think as far as I’ve been here it’s the hardest the team worked as a whole.”
“Right, but I’m talking about you,” the reporter said. “Because you said —”
“But it’s not about me,” Campbell interrupted. “It’s about Michigan and how the team works everyday.”
He later added: “I go out there and work hard everyday for the guy next to me, Craig Roh. I work hard there every day for even the freshmen.”
Just as Graham served as Campbell’s mentor in 2009, Campbell is mentoring freshman nose guard Ondre Pipkins through the team’s ‘big brother’ program.
“(I’m trying) to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistakes I did,” Campbell said. “I’m trying to make sure he gets the point way before I did.”
Sometimes the point means shedding some baby fat.