When fifth-year senior Anton Campbell visited Michigan as a high school senior, his host told him exactly how his career in Ann Arbor would unfold.
Darnell Hood, the then-freshman who became a special teams aficionado himself, had gone through a similar transition during his time as a Wolverine, and he envisioned the same path for Campbell.
Campbell was being recruited by Illinois, Nebraska and Michigan to play running back, the position he starred at in O’Fallon, Miss.
But Hood told him the coaches would move him to defensive back, the same scenario Hood encountered.
At the time, Campbell was less than impressed with the prediction.
“I was like, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about,’ ” Campbell said. “And then it happened, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ “
The switch came during spring drills during his sophomore year, and Campbell, described as an ultimate team player by Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, accepted the move.
Campbell never broke into the defensive rotation, so he focused his attention on making an impact any way he could. And because Carr values special teams, Campbell knew that oft-overlooked unit was his route to the field.
“When you’re a young guy, you want to play now, ASAP,” Campbell said. “I told the coaches I wanted to play special teams from day one just because I did it in high school, and it was always fun.”
To excel at special teams like Hood did for four years, Campbell has developed a unique mindset.
He doesn’t get the recognition of the skill players, and his craft is usually praised only within Schembechler Hall. Still, he knows if he doesn’t do his job, it might cost the Wolverines a win.
“Special teams is going to win or lose the game eventually,” Campbell said. “It might not be this week or next week, but eventually, it’s going to happen, so you have to take pride in it.”
Campbell’s pride has earned him the distinction of special teams captain and the respect of his teammates and coaches, something he said you have to earn on the field.
Over his five years on the football team, Campbell has appeared in 45 career games, mostly on special teams, but running backs coach Fred Jackson made an interesting proposal last week.
With both Mike Hart and Brandon Minor sidelined with ankle injuries, Jackson asked Campbell to return to his former position this past week to add depth.
Campbell was more than happy to oblige, even though it took a day to readjust.
“He’s one of those guys that is willing to do anything to give his team a chance (to win),” Carr said. “He never complains. He’s always had a great attitude.”
But if Campbell took one thing above all others from the player who laid out his career at Michigan, it was to have fun with what he was doing.
Whether taking snaps at running back, playing in the defensive backfield or anchoring the special teams units, Campbell is just enjoying one final year in maize and blue.
“Now that time is winding down, I’m like, ‘Wow, I only have this much time left, I have to take advantage of it,’ ” Campbell said.
One thing left on Campbell’s to-do list is to call Hood and let him know he’s playing some running back, something Hood didn’t predict.