ALLEN PARK — When Iowan Jack Campbell is off the field he’s all about family, God and hunting. He doesn’t participate on social media because he’d rather spend time talking to friends and family rather than on the phone.
Who is this guy?
On the football field he’s considered one of the top linebackers to ever come from Iowa and impressed the Lions enough that they selected him with the 18th overall pick in the draft on Thursday night.
“I’m a Midwestern kid who I feel like up to this point has kind of earned everything I’ve gotten,’’ Campbell said at a press conference on Friday. “I feel I have an old school, blue-collar mindset and I feel like that’s made me .. what they like about me and I feel that’s a perfect fit for Detroit. People in the city work for everything they get, never complain, never point fingers and that’s who I am and I feel like I couldn’t be in a better city that represents them. I’m excited to get started with this.’’
In many mock drafts, Campbell was projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick but the Lions were thrilled to take him at 18.
“What I did tell people in the NFL as they came through, is that one thing I can feel confident in saying is whoever drafts him is not going to let him leave the building over the next 10 years,’’ Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said on a Zoom call Friday. “It’s one thing to get a really good football player, it’s another thing to get a guy who really adds value in so many other areas, I think that’s what Jack does, it’s just how he’s wired. To me that’s the bonus.’’
Campbell joins a linebacker room that includes Alex Anzalone, James Houston, Malcolm Rodriguez, Julian Okwara and Derrick Barnes. He said some of then have already reached out to him.
The 6-foot-5 linebacker lined up mostly inside at Iowa, but his versatility was another factor that attracted the Lions.
“I can tell you at our place, I’ve told people if we had five Jack Campbells all five would be starting. Two would’ve been our defensive ends and the other three would be linebackers,’’ Ferentz said. “He could’ve played any of the positions in our defense.’’
Last year Campbell was honored with the Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker); William V. Campbell Trophy (best combination of academics, community service, and on-field performance); Nagurski–Woodson Defensive Player of the Year (Big Ten’s top defensive player) and was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten in 2021 and 2022.
While he seems straightforward and polite behind a podium, his mentality changes on the field.
“As soon as I step on the field I’m trying to put my teammates in the best position I can be, they can be in and I can be in. Whatever it takes to be as vocal as I’ve got to be, always having positive body language and always giving great effort but those are non-negotiables at the linebacker position,’’ Campbell said. “As soon as I step foot on the field nothing is more important than winning. Nothing is more important than going out there putting Jack Campbell’s best foot forward and also putting the linebackers’ best foot forward, pushing that room and getting pushed by those guys.’’
At first glance, he seems genuine and he doesn’t plan to alter that just because he is playing in the NFL.
“I’m going to come in with an attitude, I’m not going to change who I am. I’m going to stay true to myself as Jack Campbell and what worked at Iowa is how I’m going to carry myself here,’’ Campbell said. “All the linebackers at Iowa, our mentality was the mutt mentality. (Like) the mutt that all the little kids walked past because they wanted the new purebred puppies. That’s how I’m going to carry myself here.’’
Playing in the NFL was a childhood dream for Campbell who is trying to soak it all in since he got the phone call from GM Brad Holmes on Thursday night. He was at home in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with his family. Many of them joined him on his visit to Detroit on Friday.
Ferentz admits he’s “extremely biased” when it comes to Campbell who grew up about 90 miles from Iowa’s campus. The Iowa coach had his eye on him since 10th grade.
“My suspicion was that a smart team might jump there in the first round and grab him. … If you can get a guy like that I think you’re getting real value there and you’ve got to be thinking big picture, long game as well as short term,’’ Ferentz said. “To me, it’s a win-win.”