Maryland football entered 2020 without seven defensive players from its two-deep depth chart a season ago, in dire need for someone needed to step up as its leader.
Through three games, linebacker Chance Campbell has undoubtedly stepped up to be that guy, seizing the opportunity with his outstanding play on the field.
“He’s one of those guys that brings the juice each and every day,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “He’s reckless with his body, he plays with great effort, great passion, all the pillars that we have in our program he represents the way he plays the game and the way he prepares.”
Prior to this weekend’s cancelation, Campbell’s 18 solo tackles were good for first in the Big Ten. His 33 total tackles ranked second in the conference and his 11 total tackles per game ranked 10th in the nation through three games.
But Campbell’s impact goes way beyond his statline, as the junior has played a crucial role in the Terps’ two victories so far this season.
Campbell’s play was vital to the Terps’ victory in an overtime thriller against Minnesota in Week 2, with the linebacker responsible for multiple key third down stops late, giving life to a defense that had struggled throughout the contest. Most notably, he sacked quarterback Tanner Morgan for a loss of nine yards, which led to a punt and a Maryland score to tie the game with under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He also tallied 13 total tackles.
“What we’re starting to see out of Chance is the consistency and how he plays and he’s been a huge bright spot, a huge theater for us on the field,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “He’s made a ton of plays for us, which in our school, a position he plays, the Mike linebacker, is kind of a quarterback on our defense. And he’s one of those guys that brings the juice each and every day.”
Campbell’s stellar performance late in the game against the Golden Gophers was nothing unusual, as the junior has been putting on a show week after week this fall.
In addition to his six tackles and a share of a sack against Penn State, the linebacker opened up the third quarter with a touchdown of his own on a fumble recovery, which Locksley said was “a huge momentum play for us to put the nail in the coffin in that game.”
The score was Campbell’s first in a Maryland uniform and really put the exclamation point on his vital role on the defensive side of the ball.
“I got knocked around a little bit early in the play, got a pretty good view that there’s a lot of green grass,” Campbell said. “I got really lucky my teammates can lead a pretty good convoy.”
The junior was in and out of the lineup in past seasons at Maryland. He played primarily on special teams as a freshman, but he played a much larger role as a sophomore, totaling 54 tackles on the season, which ranked fifth on the team.
“I just try to do what the guys before me did,” Campbell said. “I was pretty lucky to have guys like Tre Watson...Isaiah [Davis], Ace [Eley] being an older guy too. Just kind of seeing how they’ve done it and trying to see what they do.”
Set to play a larger role for the Maryland defense in 2020, the linebacker tried to bulk up his frame and focused on improving his play recognition over the offseason.
Though the defense opened up the 2020 season with more struggles, its 19 allowed points to Penn State, seven of which came in garbage-time, was a move in the right direction. And Campbell’s ability to gravitate toward the ball and make many of the team’s big plays has consistently been a deciding factor in the team’s recent success.
“He studies the game, practices hard,” sophomore defensive back Nick Cross said. “And when it’s game time, he makes incredible tackles, definitely keeps some of the runners off of me and the rest of the secondary. He’s definitely done a great job.”
While Campbell vastly improved his game to be a key impact player for the Maryland defense this season, his father, Rick, noted that he always possessed leadership qualities. And one play in particular still sticks out to this day, back from Campbell’s high school career when he played linebacker and running back.
After single-handily driving down the field late, with his team, Calvert Hall, down by one score, Campbell called an audible.
With the game on the line, the standout chose to be a leader instead of the hero. With the team at the five yard-line and the play scripted for him, Campbell instead decided to recognize a player on his team who didn't get as much time on the field.
“He told the quarterback, ‘It’s gonna be okay, I’m gonna block for him,’” Rick Campbell told Testudo Times.
The play resulted in a touchdown to win the game. And though he took the ball out of his own hands to give someone else a chance in a big spot, “Chance never says a word [about it],” Rick said.
The Towson, Maryland, native, hasn’t changed in his passion for the game since stepping foot on the turf, and he’s continued to show his ability to emerge as a leader at crucial times this season.
The stellar ability has always been there, and now with a captain-like role, Campbell will be a household name for Maryland fans game in and game out.
“It’s some it’s new to others, but it’s not new to me,” Rick Campbell said. “He’s been a leader like that since he was a little boy.”