Campbell commands center stage for Navy

December 02, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

The Army-Navy rivalry doesn't exist in the Campbell family, at least not in the way you'd think it would. After all, Reggie, the third-oldest child and youngest son, is the man of the hour for Navy - and his older brother, Tony Martin, is part of an Army unit serving in Iraq.

That'll make for some good ribbing the next time they talk, right? A little chest-thumping by the younger, the hero at M&T Bank Stadium, with his two touchdowns and 227 all-purpose yards in his final Army-Navy game, and his cameo as leader of the alma mater?

"No, no. Actually, it's nothing like that," Reggie Campbell quickly corrected. "He [Tony] roots for Navy all the way. When he went in, he looked at the military as a whole. He didn't look at the Army and Navy separately." He only does that when little brother is in a football uniform, and that included the one time Tony, now 27, saw Reggie play in person since his January deployment, in the season opener against Temple.

It also included yesterday's game, Campbell said, although he added that he wasn't sure whether Tony had a chance to see Navy's 38-3 victory live. "If he didn't watch it, [his brother's wife] gave him the play-by-play," he said.

By the time Reggie graduates next spring and moves on to flight school in Pensacola - across the state from his Central Florida hometown of Sanford - he and his family hope that Tony, who joined the service through the ROTC program at Florida A&M, will be back home. He is scheduled to complete his tour and return at the end of this month, albeit likely not in time for Reggie's last game, the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 20.

They'll all have a lot to talk about, not just about the phenomenal finish Campbell is having to his college career, but also about the unexpected blossoming of military careers in the family. Neither parent has a military background, and yet the youngest daughter, 21-year-old Brittany, surprised the family and enlisted, recently finishing basic training.

When he heard that, "I said, `Yeah, right.'" Reggie said. "I never imagined that."

Then again, he had never imagined himself furthering his high school football and track careers at Navy until it became an option his senior year.

"When I was looking at it, me and my dad, I had to set Navy aside from any other colleges," he said, "because of the military commitment, just what it brought to the table. I felt like that was totally different from the rest."

No kidding. Besides the options now open to the 22-year-old quantitative economics major, he has scattered his name all over the Navy record books and left his imprint on the 108-year history of the Army-Navy game.

His 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown tied a record for the longest ever in the series, and his tightroping, zigzagging 46-yard punt return just before halftime was Navy's longest ever against Army. His two touchdowns (he also ran one in from 12 yards) gave him four in four career games against the Black Knights.

And he memorably led "Navy Blue and Gold" when it was over. Nobody could recall a player doing that before, for Army-Navy or any other game. What a great tradition he might have inadvertently started - or what the team military liaison, Marine Capt. Ryan Hamilton, nudged him to start.

"I didn't really know what I was doing up there," Campbell said.

Add to all of that his five-touchdown Poinsettia Bowl as a sophomore, and the touchdown and game-winning two-point conversion in the third overtime when Navy broke its 43-game losing streak to Notre Dame last month, and Campbell will live long in Navy football lore.

He won't be waiting around for the NFL to call - at 5 feet 6, he fits better in a cockpit than on a pro roster - but that's fine with him. His approach to his future as a pilot seems to fit his approach on the field and in the other parts of his life.

"I've never flown, but I think I'd be good, so we'll see how it goes. I have an open mind about anything," he said. "I feel I'll just adapt to whatever comes my way, to whatever is the best opportunity for me."

A lot has come Campbell's way in four years, for him and his family. They've taken unexpected paths into similar careers - and in the process put a new twist on the Army-Navy "rivalry."

david.steele@baltsun.com

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