The first preseason game is just a few days away, as the Detroit Lions will host the New York Jets on Friday night. While he and his teammates will be packing their bags for the road game, G Will Campbell will also be headed home.
Campbell, the Jets' sixth-round pick in this year's draft, grew up in Detroit and remained in the area for his collegiate career at Michigan. He would've approached his first NFL preseason game the same way regardless of the location, he says, but it's an added bonus to play in front of a supportive road crowd.
"Being here as an NFL player is a dream come true all on its own," he said, "but going back home and being able to play in front of family and friends, it's a blessing."
Of course, with the blessing of a homecoming game goes hand in hand with the curse of managing countless ticket requests from friends, family members and peers. While the 6'4", 311-pound rookie is certainly a big boy, he let his mom and dad take on that responsibility.
"Everybody that came to me, I just redirected them right to my parents and let them handle all of that," he said. "It should be a big group there supporting me."
Will Campbell hopes to show that big group what he's learned so far in his first couple weeks of training camp. While adjusting to life in the NFL and learning the playbook can be overwhelming for any rookie, he has the added task of relearning an old position. After playing guard as a sophomore at Michigan, he rotated 180 degrees and moved across the line of scrimmage to play defensive tackle as an upper classman.
"It's a big transition," Will said, "I'm just trying to get it right."
The fact that he played DT in recent years might seem like a disadvantage on the surface, but Campbell believes it actually works in his favor.
"I know what the defensive tackle is going to do," he explained. "They're always going to have a secondary move." He does, however, have to continue working on putting himself in the proper position for stopping both the primary and secondary moves of his opponent, he said.
With some guidance from his offensive line coach, Mike Devlin, along with the veterans at his position, Stephen Peterman and Willie Colon, and Pro Bowlers Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson also on the O-line, he feels that he has been able to take what he's learning and apply it to the on-field drills.
"I'm getting a good grasp on the playbook," Campbell said, "I'm learning now just to see the big picture of things, see what's going on behind me to help me do what I need to do so those guys can have a better look at their holes and I can open holes for the running backs."
He did just that this morning during an 11-on-11 team drill, when he pancaked DL Leger Douzable while run-blocking. Campbell wasn't too pumped up about the play, though.
"I can't say I did the right thing," he said. "He could've slipped, or anything could've happened, so I'm going to wait until I see film and take it from there."
Campbell might not be too impressed with his pancake block, but if he has a similar play on Friday, there will be a big group in that road crowd on cloud nine for this Jet.