Jayru Campbell is a talented young high school quarterback who could potentially have a very bright future in the sport. Unfortunately, his talents on the field are taking a back seat to an unsettling and ongoing off-field incident that has rightly raised concerns about him as not only a player but also a young man.
While he has made mistakes, he deserves a shot at redemption once the saga concludes.
Campbell, a 17-year-old Michigan State class of 2015 commit, is enshrouded in a criminal justice case after he allegedly slammed a 23-year-old school security officer to the ground during an altercation.
According to Elisha Anderson of the Detroit Free Press, Campbell turned himself in on Feb. 12 and was arraigned via video. She provided further details of the proceedings that lasted less than four minutes:
Chief Magistrate Millicent Sherman set bond at $5,000, 10% cash or surety, and ordered that Campbell, who remains suspended from school, have no contact with the alleged victim.
Campbell, a highly recruited football quarterback who verbally committed to play at Michigan State, has been charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, a felony, and aggravated assault, a misdemeanor.
Due process will determine Campbell's future, but in the court of public perception, the fight will be a long one for the young athlete. He also placed himself in a negative spotlight at the end of the 2013 season, as he punched an opposing player in the handshake line after a semifinal loss, according to Mick McCabe of the Detroit Free Press (subscription required).
The same holds true for his football future. A 3-star recruit in the 2015 class and the No. 13 overall dual-threat quarterback per 247Sports' composite rankings, Campbell was a hot commodity in the recruiting realm before he committed with Mark Dantonio and the Spartans in early August of 2013.
Unfortunately in today's predominant culture, public perception and football go hand-in-hand. How Dantonio and Michigan State react to the evolving situation may help to influence the court of public opinion in one way or another.
Hopefully, the Spartans' staff treats the situation in a positive manner once the criminal justice system makes a decision, not for their football program, but for Campbell's future.
While there is certainly no excuse for Campbell's behavior, Dantonio and his staff have an opportunity to take a troubled young man under their guidance. He is far from a lost cause at such a young age, and an intervention from the likes of the staff at Michigan State may prove to be the critical difference between a redeeming maturation process or a story that ends in any number of negative ways.
This entire saga runs much deeper than the sport of football. A young man's future hangs in the balance, and football's impact may play a critical role. America loves its narratives of redemption or a comeback story, sure, but what pulses underneath the negative headlines here is much more important.
The parallels of football and the sport's guidance for troubled young players are well established. As Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher explained in August 2012, college programs can play a key role in the rehabilitation in each individual they take in, via Tom D'Angelo of The Palm Beach Post:
The infrastructure of a program is the secret to it all. Everybody has Xs and Os, but it’s building a support system around those kids off the field to help them in different ways, to give them support in different ways, to give them treatment in different ways. [...]
Isn’t that what we’re here for, to give them a chance in life to make it better? Isn’t that what college is supposed to do, give guys an opportunity, give them a better life? That’s what we’re here for. If we’re not here for the kids then we shouldn’t be here. We can go recruit all the perfect ones, that’s great. Then what would our country be? Who would have an opportunity, who would have a chance?
Cass Tech football coach Tom Wilcher shares his take on the situation, via Jared Purcell of Mlive.com:
Why wouldn't I not (welcome him back)? All kids go through things at times. I think to put a black eye on him is enough. It's time to move on and be proactive about his future. We need to be positive.
Yes, Wilcher will obviously be in Campbell's corner. No football coach will come out and rally against his own (potentially) former player. But the important point to take away from the quote, which is a sentiment all should agree on, is that Campbell is human. Mistakes happen. How mistakes are handled and whether a person learns and adapts from them is key.
Campbell can help himself on the path through public remorse and a proper handling of the situation. He, too, must understand that football is secondary and a chance to still attend Michigan State—scholarship or not—is an opportunity to do much more than simply contribute to a sport.
If sports have taught fans anything, especially in recent years via various incidents at the professional level, it is to treat all incidents with an open mind and regard a player as more than just a spoke on the wheel.
A vast majority of the Campbell saga has yet to be written. His football future remains in the air, but more important things are at stake.
As is the case with any person—athlete or not—he deserves a shot to turn this downward spiral around.