I had to ask Jack Campbell about the numbers.
The Iowa linebacker had 143 last season, the most in FBS play. Fifty-seven solos, 86 assists.
So yeah, about the numbers…
“I mean, I really didn’t keep track,” Campbell said during his podium appearance at the Big Ten media days in Indianapolis on Tuesday. “They really don’t mean that much to me, obviously. For you guys, that’s how you guys can keep track of efficiency and productivity, whatever.”
The numbers, though, show Campbell’s mindset, and why it makes him one of the best linebackers in the nation.
It’s not about being selfish — Campbell wants what’s best for the Hawkeyes, and the best for the defense.
“But for me, it’s kind of how I’m wired,” he said. “I want to make the tackle every single play. If it’s not me, why isn’t it me? That’s the kind of mindset that I have. The only reason I have that mindset is I want to make every single play.
“I’m a kind of do-it-myselfer. That’s not the right mindset to have when you’re playing on a football team. You’ve got to be a team guy, and I want to put my defensive linemen and secondary in the best position I can to make the play before me. But at the same time, I have that selfish ambition that I want to get to the ball first.”
Campbell is at home in the middle of Iowa’s ball-hawking defense. The Hawkeyes led the nation in turnovers and turnover margin, and ranked second in defensive touchdowns.
Go get the ball, Campbell said. It’s a greed that has been effective for the Hawkeyes.
“I think it’s just doing your job,” Campbell said. “It sounds pretty dang simple, but it’s hard to do. When you do your job, you get in the right spot, and then when the opportunities arise, you go make plays. Take the ball, and be selfish.
“Any time the ball’s on the ground, it’s got to be our ball. Any time the ball is in the air, go make a play on it.”
Campbell is a solitary man surrounded by a defense that is fully reliant on all that surrounds it.
It’s why he likes his privacy — “I like a small group of people. I don’t have too many super-close friends. I don’t like too many people knowing, you know, super-personal stuff about me,” Campbell said.
It’s why he’s taken up hunting in the offseason, to bond with his brothers, to get away from the chaos that surrounds him on the field, and the attention that seems to follow him off the field.
“It’s a hobby of mine, being able to get away and disconnect from the whole football realm,” he said. “We just get to stand around and talk and visit. I don’t really get to see them much, so it means a lot to me.
“It’s a way for me to get away from the buzz and everything, and just go enjoy the people I care about the most.”
Campbell has grown in his career with the Hawkeyes. He came to Iowa weighing 210 pounds, now he’s up to 250.
More weight hasn’t slowed him down.
“No,” Campbell said when he asked if he’s lost any speed. “Gosh, no.”
There are two Campbells — the off-field one and the one on the field. They seem to be a perfect combination.
“I don’t know,” I think it’s something that’s been within me since I was a little kid. I can’t put my finger on it,” he said. “Outside of the lines, I’ll do everything for you. I think that’s how I was raised. When we step in the white lines, I want to take what’s ours. I want to do things the right way, and get the Iowa Hawkeyes to the top any way I can.
“The personal expectations are to be the best Jack Campbell I can be, on and off the field. If I do that, I’m going to be a pretty good football player, but an excellent citizen. That’s kind of my goal right now.”