Jack Campbell is one of just 13 Iowa Hawkeyes to be named a unanimous All-American, but he grew up just like a lot of other boys — wanting to be like his dad. His father, Dave, played left guard for the University of Northern Iowa from 1986-1989.
“I always had that dream of playing college football and being like my dad.” Campbell said.
Dave Campbell decided to stay in Cedar Falls, where he eventually would help raise Jack and his two brothers. Naturally, Jack grew up rooting for hometown Northern Iowa.
“I was a diehard Panthers fan,” Jack said. “We’d go to games every weekend — you can just get in and out. You could always find tickets, go in and mess around with your friends. That was always fun for me and my little brothers growing up. It was a good time, and a way for my dad to meet up with his old college teammates, and a good way for us — his sons — to get introduced to the guys he played with.”
“Growing up I was definitely a UNI Panther fan and had no allegiance to any state school here in Iowa.”
Jack was raised watching college football, and eventually started playing flag football in early grade school. His coach? Dave Campbell — but not for long.
“It didn’t work,” Jack joked. “I couldn’t be coached by my dad because I didn’t listen to him very well. With my dad I just want to have fun and sometimes practice isn’t the place to have fun or mess around.”
But what Dave knew about his oldest son — whether he was coaching him or not — he had a special talent.
“When he was a little kid I knew he was something special as a football player,” Dave Campbell said. “He always had a high motor and I knew once he was given his chance he’d take full advantage of it.”
While his father wasn’t his coach, Dave was Jack’s inspiration.
“He motivated me to want to do that and be like my dad,” Jack said. ” Because I feel like every little kid wants to be like their dad.”
After breaking school records at Cedar Falls High School, Campbell accepted an offer from the University of Iowa in 2018. His junior and senior year, he reached All-American status and became the school’s 13th unanimous selection this week.
“A lot of times it’s like you have to pinch yourself,” Dave said. “It’s like, ‘Is this really happening?’ It’s been just a joy seeing him develop, not just as a football player but just a heck of a good man.”
On Iowa’s senior day, Dave, his wife Jen, Jack’s mother Amy and her husband Jeremy Eastman all got to share the field with their son.
“Seeing those four people who had done so much for me, it means the world,” a teary eyed Jack said after the game. “My mom, my step mom, my step dad, and especially my dad. They’ve always just been so supportive of me and seen things in me that sometimes I don’t even see in myself. Running out there and getting to share that moment with them — it meant the world to me.
“I’m just truly blessed to be raised by four people who love me.”
We’ll have much more from Hawkeye Headquarters reporter Blake Hornstein’s one-on-one interview with unanimous All-American linebacker Jack Campbell between now and the Hawkeyes’ appearance in the Music City Bowl.