It’s easily expected, but Jack Campbell’s college head coach heaped big praise on him after the Detroit Lions took him in the first round.
The Detroit Lions made it two picks many analysts didn’t care for when the took Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell with the 18th overall pick on Thursday night. But general manager Brad Holmes expectedly professed how they got their guys, and Campbell does seem like a good fit. A quote from back at the NFL Combine foretold his fit with the Lions.
I love having that green dot on the back of my head,” the linebacker (Campbell) said at the combine. “If I make a mistake, I kinda like being able to be the first one to raise my hand and just get a bunch of chewing tobacco in my eyes …”
Campbell’s college head coach, Kirk Ferentz, spoke highly of his former player via a Zoom call with local Detroit media on Friday. The Iowa head coach acknowledged his bias about his former player, but that’s to be expected.
Via Ben Raven of MLive:
"It’s easy to talk about Jack. He’s one of the finest players I’ve ever worked with my entire career,” Ferentz said over Zoom. ….. Was a guy we really kinda fell in love with in 10th grade. Really fortunate to have him in our program. He’s been an exceptional football player. Exceptional team member. Great leaderThe thing I appreciate is just the kind of person he was….I think everybody in Detroit is really gonna like not only watching Jack play and perform. But also just the interactions you’ll have with him and what he’ll bring to the community there.”"
Kirk Ferentz goes all in to praise Jack Campbell
Before his long run as the Hawkeyes’ head coach, Ferentz was the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line coach from 1996-1998. Even from somewhat of a distance coaching the other side of the ball, he got a glimpse at a Hall of Famer.
When asked about the debate over positional value and taking a linebacker in the first round in this era, Ferentz tentatively leaned into that personal history.
"I’m not saying Jack is Ray Lewis, I’m just saying there’s probably some characteristics that are similar,” Ferentz said. “And when you get a player that’s really impactful, that’s important, I’m not here to say what the price should be for that, but what I told people in the NFL as they came through, was that one thing I can feel pretty confident saying: whoever drafts him is not going to let him leave the building over the next 10 years.”"
Lewis was a first-round pick of the Ravens in their first ever draft in 1996.
Leaving aside Ferentz’s tentative comparison to Lewis, Campbell combines unique size (6-foot-5, 249 pounds), and good instincts with high-end athleticism that slowly shows on tape. He posted the highest Relative Athletic Score (9.98) among linebackers at this year’s combine.
The question is what Campbell’s immediate role will be in the Lions’ defense, with both starting linebacker jobs spoken for right now. But on the idea of simply adding good football players in the draft, that was accomplished with the 2022 Butkus Award winner.