If you’ve read my stories over the last five months or so, you’ve probably read a LOT about Iowa middle linebacker Jack Campbell. 18 of them to be exact with my byline (not including the AP or the Hawkologist). Since August, we’ve learned quite a few things about Iowa’s 13th unanimous All-American.

I also had the opportunity to sit down 1-on-1 with Campbell in December for 38 minutes. He wears #31, so, here’s 31 things (with some indirect inspiration) I’ve learned about Jack Campbell from covering him this season, in no order of relevance.

1. He used to play center, on the B team

In 7th grade, Jack hadn’t yet found a home at linebacker. He experimented as a running back, and even a center. Apparently, he wasn’t good enough to make the A team. Success took time for Campbell, and fortunately his 8th grade P.E. teacher suggested he flipped over to defense. “I moved to linebacker, and I played quite a bit and I really liked that position, Campbell told me. “I like the fact I can just run around and have fun.”

2. His favorite play of ’22 wasn’t his own

Campbell told me that his favorite play of the season wasn’t his own. It was from his teammate and fellow linebacker Seth Benson. “Favorite play this year would be the Illinois game when Seth Benson had that fumble recovery and just celebrating with him afterwards.”

3. Jack and Seth like to hunt

Hunting running backs in the hole on the field, deer & turkey off of it. Jack is the deer guy, while Seth’s expertise is catching pheasants. The two arrived on campus in 2019 and remained tied at the hip until the very end.

4. Jack ran track (sort of)

At Cedar Falls High School, Campbell participated in track and field, but not super competitively. “I just went out for track to stay in shape and enjoy my friends and build our relationships and just stay in shape,” Jack told me. “Just working on jumping and my running form.”

5. Jack played basketball (actually)

He was pretty good too. Jack was a starter on a back-back state championship team. However, he didn’t stick to manning the lane, he’d rather man the middle of an 11-man defense. But, he could’ve — which brings us to our next fact:

6. Hack-a-Jack

His head coach, Ryan Schultz said Jack could’ve been a D1 basketball player. Regardless, Jack didn’t want to pursue a basketball career. “In basketball I feel like you have to leave some stuff up to the refs,” Jack said. “If you get a bunch of fouls then you have to go sit which is usually my problem. I get a bunch of fouls and I don’t know if they’re fouls or not. Nowadays you touch a kid — and it’s a foul.”

7. All-stars

Going back to that championship Cedar Falls team — they were stacked. Jack played with NBA player A.J. Green, UNI wide receiver Logan Wolf, Hawkeye teammate Jackson Frericks, and Drake football player Ben Gerdes.

8. The MVP

Before Jack was the most valuable defensive player in the Big Ten, he was a part of the ‘Mentors in Violence Prevention’ program in high school — a program designed to raise awareness to heavy topics such as suicide, alcohol abuse, etc.

Jack said he had no intention of joining, but after a leader of the program spoke to his class sophomore year he had a change of heart.

“I’m like, ‘Ah, like I’ll do it’ — not really knowing the impact it could have on people,” Campbell said. “I had a blast and I got to lead a bunch of different groups of young guys and just making sure that if they ever need anything they could come to me.”

9. Something from a movie

Jack Campbell’s high school football coach Brad Remmert compared Campbell’s performance in Cedar Falls’ 2018 semifinal matchup to a movie character. Campbell and the Tigers were facing his former Hawkeye teammate Gavin Williams and Southeast Polk.

“Jack, I think he had 20 tackles in the game,” Remmert said. “One of my buddies calls and says it was kind of like Jefferson from ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ where they damage the car before the game and Jefferson goes out and has like 20 tackles. Well, that was Jack Campbell that night.”

Coach Remmert’s guess was close, but Campbell had 17.5 tackles.

10. Bulking season

Jack said he arrived on campus at 206 pounds and needed to put on weight — he’s listed at 246 pounds now.

Cedar Falls linebacker Jack Campbell in 2018. (contributed photo)
Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell in 2022. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

11. Jack Campbell’s Jack Campbell

Jack’s leadership has been well-documented. But who was somebody Jack looked up to as the new man on campus?

“The older guy for me that I kind of wanted to be like was Kristian Welch.” Campbell said.

Welch played linebacker for the Hawkeyes from 2016-2019, making 87 tackles in just 10 games his senior season. The two played together in 2019, when Jack was a freshman — and Welch a senior.

12. Like Kristian

When it came to forming habits and building routines Jack paid close to attention to Kristian Welch’s: “I just watched him, and how he operated and what he did — and just tried to model him. He came into the building an hour and 15 minutes before the game, I came to the building an hour and 15 minutes before the game.”

13. Last play lust

Jack’s favorite play of 2022 was Seth’s. And before he could name one of his own, he made sure his favorite Kristian Welch play made the cut.

“His sack, last play of his career against Illinois,” Campbell gushed, with a big smile on his face. “Just the accumulation of what he did day-in and day-out. A lot of people overlooked him saying ‘one-year starter’ — you can go down the list. I thought that was pretty cool.”

14. From Kristian to Christian

Jack’s perspective on the world stems from faith. Here’s how he opened his William V. Campbell acceptance speech with “First and foremost, I’d like to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity and blessing me to be around these fantastic people.”

Jack told me during our interview that “I’ll always have the perspective that other people are more important than me.”

15. The meek middle linebacker?

One of Jack’s childhood idols, David Johnson, earned the nickname ‘Humble Rumble’ for his modest demeanor. I don’t have a catchy nickname for Jack, but I can say he’s got a similar take on managing personal success.

“I would say there’s a fine line of not giving yourself enough credit, but at the same time you’ve got to be careful of giving yourself too much credit. And for me, I’ve always got to believe in myself and I’ve got to have confidence in myself. But at the same time I can’t show that in an arrogant way. I want to grow that route in a humble way and I feel like that’s something I’ve learned from the studies I’ve done.”

16. Jack’s soundtrack

Cue Bon Jovi, you’ve made it halfway there. Not a fan? Maybe the Hawkeye Marching Band medley will change your tune. Wait, isn’t this article about Jack Campbell? What does he like?

“Sometimes it’s Christian contemporary music, sometimes it’s country music, sometimes it’s Kid Rock, but any of that stuff will get me going.”

I wish I would’ve probed the specifics, not sure if Jack is more of a Lecrae guy or Andy Mineo. According to his younger brother Drew, Jack prefers Cody Johnson. Hey, Enter Sandman gets me amped to cover a game. If Jack’s soundtrack tuned him up to win Big Ten defensive player of the year, who am I to judge?

17. Family guy?

Jack told me that he purposefully avoids his family before games during the “Hawk Walk.”

“Going to see your family is all good, I guess it’s just not something for me. I feel like if I go see my family I want to go mess around. I walk past them because I know I’ll see them after the game — because they’re at every single game.”

18. Momma’s boy

Jack is very close with his family, who were kind enough to let me hang out at their tailgate multiple times this season. His father, Dave, played guard at Northern Iowa in the 1980s — the two have a very close relationship. His mother, Amy Eastman, had a huge influence on Jack’s life too.

“She taught me just how to be kind and put people first,” Jack said. “Be patient — even though I’m terrible at that. She just always supported me and my brothers and allowed us to play whatever sports we want to play.”

19. Heart on his wrist

Connecting with kids going through severe medical issues is a huge passion of Jack’s. In high school Jack made a friend named Will Reinart, who was struggling with a decade-long battle with leukemia.

Jack befriended Will, helped bring awareness to his private graduation, and was even selected to be a pall bearer at his eventual funeral.

He wears a bracelet with “Will Power’ inscribed on it, as well as few others from various kids he’s developed a relationship with.

20. Eternal remembrance

Those bracelets have had a front row to seat to Jack’s iconic Hawkeye career. He wears them during games, and every moment in between. Jack says he keeps those wristbands on all the time, and never takes them off for any reason.

21. Jack just likes kids

I asked Jack earlier in the season to give a 5-year-old kid named Jack Campbell a video shoutout. Not only did he follow through, Jack and his father Dave hooked up ‘Little Jack’ with a signed football and a signed picture. After the Music City Bowl, Jack Campbell met Jack Campbell.

22. Accolades

Jack may need a trophy room with all of the achievements he’s earned as a college athlete. Here’s a list of awards he earned during his time with the Hawkeyes:

  • Hayden Fry award
  • Academic All Big-Ten
  • Coaches Appreciation Award
  • Permanent Team Captain
  • 2nd Team All-America
  • 1st Team All-America
  • Team MVP
  • William V. Campbell award
  • Dick Butkus award
  • Consensus All-American
  • Unanimous All-American
  • 1st Team All Big-Ten
  • Big Ten defensive player of the year
  • Team Hustle Award

23. Hawkeye legend

Historically speaking, Jack’s simple statistics don’t jump off the page. Last year he tied Dave Clements for 6th in the all-time single-season tackle list, with 140 in 2021. He’d likely be high up on the all-time tackles list if he started more than two years. (For comparison, Josey Jewell started 3.5 seasons and is 4th on the all-time tackles list)

But, he’s one of only three Hawkeyes to win Big Ten defensive player of the year honors (Daviyon Nixon, Josey Jewell). In 2022, Jack became Iowa’s 13th unanimous All-American and the 29th consensus All-American. Him and former Hawkeye inside linebacker Josey Jewell are the only two Hawkeyes to win the Butkus-Fitzgerald award, given to the nation’s top linebacker.

24. Proving himself

Yes, Jack does have a favorite play of his own. It came his sophomore year against Wisconsin, when he intercepted a Graham Mertz pass in the end zone, for his first career interception.

“Just showing myself that I could compete at the highest level and giving myself that confidence.” Campbell told me.

Another one of his favorites was from that same year against Nebraska. Campbell had a season-high eight tackles and two for loss. His performance helped the Hawkeyes down the Huskers 26-20.

Hawks fans — I hear you. What about the Minnesota game? Jack did say “that Minnesota pick was pretty fun”… just not his favorite.

25. Chip on his shoulder

If you can’t tell, Jack’s a blue-collar player who enjoys a little adversity. Jack was a 3-star recruit coming out of high school, and it stuck with him.

“I feel like not a whole lot of people knew who I was which was kind of nice because I’m just flying under the radar. That just gives you that chip on your shoulder.”

“Nowadays I feel like in 7th grade kids think that they’re going to make a 53-man roster.”

26. The Iowa kid

Jack, from Cedar Falls, embraces his Iowa roots like no other. He even began his William V. Campbell acceptance speech with “Let’s see what this Iowa kid can do.”.

Campbell recalls meeting with Kirk Ferentz, and the rest of the Hawkeye staff and remembered them as “the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and that just stuck out to me.”

Campbell had multiple Big Ten offers, but chose to stay in his home state.

“Getting to represent my home state — that’s special to me. Representing the people of Iowa through the way I play.”

27. Motivational speaker?

Following Iowa’s 54-10 against Ohio State, the Hawkeyes sat at 3-4 with what looked like a slim chance to win the Big Ten West. A quarterback controversy, and questions whether the team should throw in the towel loomed over the team. Were there cracks in the cement?

“No offense to them, but I feel like that might be why you’re an outsider,” Campbell passionately spoke. “You just got to have the right mindset to be able to do this at a high level. And I’m not saying everyone is built for this and if you don’t play football you’re lazy or anything like that. I feel like it’s applicable to anything you do in life. If you’re just going to give up when stuff gets harder, I just feel like that’s not the right way to look at things.”

28. Leader by example

Can’t get enough of Jack’s leadership? Neither can Kirk Ferentz. After Iowa’s underwhelming 7-3 win over South Dakota State, a game in which Jack’s safety accounted for a good chunk of the team’s scoring, he was asked about the offense’s performance.

“I think they did a hell of a job,” the team captain proclaimed. “There’s no time to point fingers or whine or complain. When you’re in the locker room, you’re one team and one unit.”

Following the game, Ferentz shared the response with the rest of the team.

“That was just a really good message for everybody on our team to hear. That’s the way he’s wired,” Ferentz said about his team captain. “In my opinion that’s why he’s such a great player. I think it’s good for everybody to hear that kind of message. Just in all walks of life, quite frankly.”

29. He brought out emotional Kirk

After Campbell’s final game as a Hawkeye, in the Music City Bowl, his head coach was brought to tears when talking about his homegrown All-American:

“Everything he looks at and sees is opportunity. He’s extremely humble and appreciative. He’s an unbelievable young guy The fun is being on the practice field and game field with guys like that. That’s what the game’s about.”

30. NFL-bound

I’m not even going to act like I know anything about the draft industrial complex — but I do have a strong feeling Jack Campbell will be drafted in April. Despite his outstanding collegiate career — it looks unlikely as of now that he’ll be a first-round pick. It appears the experts coin him as a third- or potentially second-round NFL pick.

USA Today mocked Campbell as a second-round pick just last week, While another site grades Campbell as a third-round prospect. The knocks on Campbell according to NFL Draft Buzz are that “he’s often slow to react and locate the ball against the run” and “a stretch to be able to cover tight ends or running backs in the NFL.”

We know Jack has carried a chip on his shoulder, this certainly won’t change that.

31. Interacting with the media

Personally, Jack was a pleasure to deal with all of last season. Always respectful, always cooperative. Agreeing to a 1-on-1 interview with me was certainly something he didn’t have to do, but he fit it into his busy schedule and made it happen.

I think the rest of the Hawkeye football beat would concur when I say Jack Campbell is a first-class individual. What the average fan sees from afar is what prevails behind the curtain. I’d like to use this final item to thank Jack for every bit of access he’s allowed me to have. I appreciate it, and I hope our audience gained something from our sit-down.

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