Caleb Campbell: Le Coeur d'un Lion
It wasn't just another hot, summer day for West Point Alumnus Caleb Campbell. The Perrytown, TX native had been drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
Most of his band of brothers from college would eventually be lacing up their combat boots after being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to a 2005 change in Army rules that allowed athletes drafted by a professional sports team to delay their active military service, Campbell was lacing up his cleats and putting on the helmet and practice jersey that had just been issued to him by the Detroit Lions.
But before he was able to take the field, word came down to the Lions' organization that the Army had reinterpreted this rule, no doubt due to the controversy that athletes in other branches of service were not afforded the same option. Caleb Campbell would be taking the field after all, but it wouldn't be under the bright lights of Ford Field.
The fierce defensive back for the Black Knights admitted to being overcome by his emotions when he found out that the Army had changed their rules, but he recognizes the importance of serving a cause greater than himself. The cause of freedom.
Campbell even commented on the advantages of remaining on active duty in the Army while taking a hiatus from football will help him "stay in great shape".
Caleb Campbell joins a rich tradition of athletes who bypass scholarships to other programs in order to train as an officer at a United States service academy.
Life at West Point was very different from the average "college experience" that most of us had. Day to day life is much more regimented and discipline standards are infinitely higher than you will find at your local state or private campus.
It is a testament to the character of these young athletes who know going in that even if they are successful enough on the field to be drafted into professional sports, they will likely have to delay realizing that dream until they have first fulfilled their service to America.
Add the fact that we are currently a nation at war, and it's easy to see that these young men understand the virtue of strong character.
Our voyeuristic society seems to like to read stories like that of Tennessee's freshman tailback Daryl Vereen being arrested for public intoxication, or LSU's junior quarterback Ryan Perrilloux who was dismissed from the team by head coach Les Miles for several off-campus run-ins with the law as well as violating multiple team rules.
Sometimes it's more serious crimes, like Alabama's senior linebacker Jimmy Johns, who was recently kicked off the team after being arrested for multiple counts of selling cocaine, a felony charge.
With an offseason littered by stories of the many college athletes who have inexplicably fallen from grace, the story of Caleb Campbell comes as a breath of fresh air.
According to the Department of the Army, Second Lieutenant Caleb Campbell will serve as a graduate assistant, coaching safeties either at West Point or at the West Point Military Prep School at Fort Monmouth. Lieutenant Campbell will serve at this position for one year, then report to Officer Training for another year. After two years of service, Campbell will be eligible to apply for a release to return to the NFL.
While the initial reaction to Caleb Campbell being allowed to go straight into the NFL after West Point was rife with controversy, the culmination of this story seems to have calmed the waters. Naturally, this young man was upset after being granted the waiver and then having it taken from him right before he became a Lion, but the resolve he has shown in the face of adversity proves that he already has the heart of a lion.
In this day and age of 24-hour news, reality television, and society's fascination with celebrity train wrecks, our young men and women in uniform remind us of what it's really all about.
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