October 07, 2011
When Tennessee Titans defensive back Tommie Campbell(notes) lands at the Pittsburgh airport for the Titans game against the Steelers this weekend, Campbell will be walking on floors he used to mop, right past toilets he used to scrub.
Two years ago, Campbell was a janitor at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Today, he's a safety with the Titans, returning to his hometown for an NFL game. Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean tells Campbell's unlikely story.
Campbell starred for the Aliquippa High School Quips in football, basketball and track. He had a scholarship to play at Pitt, but washed out there because he wasn't going to class. He got another chance at Edinboro University, but he stayed unproductive and unmotivated, and that's what led to his ticket to a pair of rubber gloves and the glamorous world of airport toilets.
For most guys, the story would've ended there, but Campbell didn't give up on himself, and found a couple of people who wouldn't give up on him, either. A friend named Larry Dorsch, 54, whom Campbell now calls "Pops," helped him get back to football.
Campbell began loving himself again. He started working out at the YMCA and running. He bulked up from 182 pounds to 218.
Through friends, a meeting was arranged with Mike Conway, defensive coordinator at California University of Pennsylvania. Everyone understood it was Campbell's last shot.
"I went into the meeting not sure if we wanted to go that route," Conway said. "People that knew him at the low point, they would ask me, 'Why would you give this kid a chance? He's not a great kid, and he's already wrecked a couple of opportunities.'
"But Tommie pretty much convinced me and all of us he really had changed and was a guy deserving of another opportunity. I guess you could say we took a chance on him."
The chance paid off, and Campbell had a season that landed him in the Cactus Bowl, Division II football's All-Star game. He got his attitude right off the field, too, going to class and having his best academic semester. It took some time, three chances and a lot of maturity, but Campbell never gave up. He eventually found his path.
Scouts liked his 40-yard-dash times, and the Titans selected him with the 251st pick of the 2011 draft. At the moment, he's behind star cornerback Cortland Finnegan on Tennessee's depth chart, and will be playing in front of family and friends this weekend at Heinz Field.
He knows it's a business trip, though.
Posted Jul 2 2012
Posted Jul 3 2012
Posted Jun 21 2012