Michigan senior defensive tackle “Big Will” Campbell talked with GoBlueWolverine after day one of practice Monday. BWC talked about living up to his expectations as a high recruit, his new physique, being a leader on Team 133, being a mentor to Ondre Pipkins, advice from former players, and more.
Big Will says he owes a Big Season to the fans
Michigan senior defensive tackle William Campbell was the focus of sky-high expectations coming into Ann Arbor. A five-star prospect and one of the headliners of the 2009 recruiting class, Campbell was expected to be enforcer for the Wolverine defensive front from the moment he stepped on campus.
But after three seasons of struggling with his weight and conditioning, Campbell has not yet lived up to hype surrounding his five-star rating.
Now a senior, Campbell has changed mentally and physically in preparation for what could be a huge final campaign. At 6-foot-5, 310-pounds, a lighter, quicker Campbell has shed 20-pounds of ‘baby fat’ in preparation for the upcoming season. He has also taken on a leadership role on Team 133 and is playing with urgency going into his senior year.
“I had to step up and this is the time to do it,” Campbell told GoBlueWolverine.com. “It’s my last go-around and I owe Michigan and these fans a lot.”
"I mean, I came here with big expectations and didn’t live up to them. And now it is time pay.” And so far, through the summer Campbell has done just-that. “I just got up everyday ready to work, knowing I had to come here and put in my all.”
A big part of Campbell’s new physique is the sacrifice he made to his diet. Campbell had to give up sweets, particularly his favorite treat honey buns. His diet now consists of lean meats and protein. The good news is his new countenance has made practice a little easier for him.
“I’m not huffing and puffing anymore,” Campbell said. “I mean I can move left and right way better. I feel a lot better out there.”
Campbell has even been requested by coach Brady Hoke to put back on some weight before the season opener versus defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 1. It’s a request Campbell says he hopes is a lot easier then losing the weight.
“It’s a lot easier adding then losing. So that should be more fun,” Campbell said.
First day of Practice
As the Wolverines prepare for their 133rd year of football, Campbell said the team is focused and ready on day one of Fall Camp, after a long summer of training.
“I mean, outside everybody out there is excited to play,” Campbell said. “We finally get to play football after training all summer. Everybody came out excited and anxious to get better every day. There was a lot of nervousness, bubble guts. Everybody is excited to see what’s going to happen, and just ready to play ball.”
Even with the team limited to helmets-only, Campbell said there was some light hitting going on in the trenches.
“I mean, today was the first day, we just had on helmets,” Campbell said. “To tell you the truth, with the helmets, with the equipment on or without, we are still going to hit each other. So that is just a mentality that (Hoke) brought to this program. And that’s what we are trying to get.”
Campbell said no one player has prepared harder then the next player. He said they work hard for the player that is next to them.
“I think everybody prepared the same,” Campbell said on the off-season workouts. “Because we all owe each other to play for each other. I mean I go out there every day to work hard for the guy next to me, Craig Roh. I work hard every day even for the freshman. I work every day for Willie Henry, Peewee (Ondre Pipkins), everybody.”
However, Campbell says the team still has some more growth to do before the season opener.
“I think we’ve got a lot growth of course, since it is day one of camp. We’ve got a long way to go. And we’re going to make those strides. But today I feel like we did pretty good. I wish we could have had those freshman more, but they’re in class. So they can get it in their head, how we are going to work every day.”
Michigan freshman defensive lineman Ondre ‘Peewee’ Pipkins is one of the top recruits for the 2012 recruiting class. He has come to Ann Arbor with very similar expectations that Campbell had during his freshman year. And Campbell has been asked to mentor Pipkins as a ‘big brother’, where a senior looks to mentor a freshman player coming in.
It’s a role that Campbell has taken on with full reasonability.
“Peewee, (I) happen to be his mentor,” said Campbell who added that he-himself was mentored by current Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham as a freshman. “And I have been talking to him, and getting into his head, and making sure he won’t make the mistakes that I did. Just come out every day and start off strong.”
Campbell has given the 6-foot-3, 330-pound Pipkins some diet advice as well, telling his mentee to lay off the sweets, and encouraging him to eat more leans meats and protein.
One thing that has really impressed Campell is the strength of the young Pipkins.
“He came in, he was probably stronger than I was coming in,” Campbell said. “Quicker around the ball probably. Yeah, he is a hard worker. I am surprised right now.”
Talking to Alumni
Campbell has looked for guidance this off-season from former Michigan lineman Will Heininger, Ryan Van Bergan, Brandon Graham, and Mike Martin. He says he talks with the former players about improving as a player and a leader for the upcoming season.
Campbell is set to replace Martin on the defensive line this season, and said he talks with the former Wolverine on a daily basis for advice.
“Of course Mike Martin—third round draft pick—left some big shoes to fill,” Campbell said about the current Tennessee Titan. “ And I have probably talked to him every day—him going through his training camp and telling me how I have to go and what I need to do.”
The Alabama O-Line
The reason for all this hard work? Just look at Game One. Alabama boasts one of the top offensive lines in the country. Big Will understands this full-well, saying it might the best line he will face in college.
“No doubt in my mind this will probably be the best offensive line we play in college. They’re great. Their double teams are fierce. I mean that is why we are doing what we are doing everyday—working hard, being prepared for them and the rest of our season.”