Friedgen 'chalks up' a big commitment

Devonte Campbell moments before annoucing for UMD.

Devonte Campbell's football career began with him heading out for practice as a freshman at the urging of his coach. Campbell was more into basketball and didn't really want to try football, and when he showed up for his first day, he was wearing his pads backwards.


Fast forward to last week, the final stages of a heated recruiting battle for Campbell, who had become one of the top uncommitted college prospects in the Mid-Atlantic region:

The Forestville Military Academy (Md.) senior -- leaning toward heading out of state -- received a visit from Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen, and what ensued was a chalkboard Xs and Os session that swayed Campbell and clinched the Terps one of the Washington area's best prospects in the Class of '07.

"Had you asked me this summer, I'd have told you Georgia Tech for sure. Because they were in early and the coaches were relentless with texting him, calling him, the whole nine," Forestville coach Charles Harley said Friday afternoon after Campbell announced his decision before a large crowd of supporters at his school.

"In the end, Coach Friedgen, himself, came here a couple times and got on the chalkboard and starting diagramming plays, and showing him, in their offense, exactly how he would fit. And I think that won him over. Because you can send a coordinator over, but when you send the head coach, who also calls plays … you could tell he really wanted this kid. And I think that won the kid over in the end."

And a big win it was. Campbell, 6-foot-2 and 235-pounds, is a top-notch all-around athlete. He has great wheels for his size, can jump, likes to hit and has a businesslike mentality. That's a heck of a package.

At his press conference, Campbell stood up and chose from among four hats – Maryland, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Tennessee – although he later said that Illinois actually was his second choice. He first began to put on the Syracuse hat, drawing a surprised buzz from the crowd before he placed it back under the table.

He then did the same with the other two hats, drawing an eruption from the crowd when all that was left was the Terps cap. The Forestville folks, needless to say, were ecstatic to learn that their hometown here would remain exactly that for four years to come.

Campbell's decision to attend Maryland "was like a last week thing. It was crazy. Everything looked so good, I had to just look at the things after college, think about how my life would be when I wasn't playing football. And that's why I came to my decision," Campbell said.

"Academically I was impressed with Maryland's standards. They told me on my visit, a degree to Maryland meant more than a lot of degrees. I really didn't want to leave." He continued. "I'm glad it happened like this, I'm happy with my decision and I think I chose to go to the right school.

"Their success this year was a help, too. I like to win. I hate losing, you can ask any of my coaches, I hate to lose. So that was a big factor," said Campbell, a first-team All-Met selection this season after posting 72 tackles and four sacks at linebacker, along with 30 catches for 1,022 yards and 11 touchdowns at tight end.

At Maryland, Campbell will most likely be used in an H-back type of role, often times playing at the same time as another prized local recruit, redshirt freshman Drew Gloster.

"He'll create a lot of match-up problems with his speed, because if you put a linebacker on him, they'll throw it, you put a safety in, they'll run it," said Harley, one of the Washington area's most diligent high school coaches when it comes to developing his players and promoting them to college recruiters.

"Ralph was smart in using the fact they have the other tight end, Gloster, and they plan on using them both at the same time. So he didn't go around the fact that they another guy like him there. He just showed how using both of them, with the same skill set, would benefit their team greatly," Harley said.

It's safe to say playing offense was a priority of Campbell's while evaluating schools. Some of the others were said to have offered him a guaranteed starting job, but Maryland makes no such promises, and Campbell didn't need one. He also tried to maintain a low-profile throughout his recruitment after watching former teammate Antonio Logan-el make an early commitment, before reneging and announcing for Penn State in an in-your-face manner that upset a lot of people in Maryland.

"Basically I learned not to lead people on. I learned to take the process slow and not try to be in the public eye all the time. I'm glad it happened this way in this small setting," Campbell said.

"I mean, yeah, I probably should have done the ESPN thing, but my coach really relieved me when he told me I would do it at my school, in front of my teammates and family. It was a real good thing."

To illustrate Campbell's athleticism, he's averaging 23.2 points per game on the basketball court this winter.

"Athlete-wise, his upside is tremendous. Come watch him play basketball," Harley said.

"His first offer from UVA was, they watched him play basketball and realized he had explosive power. The best thing about him is he's got big hands, he's got very good hand-eye coordination, and his vertical – he goes from standing still to his highest point as fast as anyone I've ever seen.

"And that's without the benefit of college weight training and college eating. There's no reason he can't be 250 this time next year," Harley said.

A video highlight presentation during Campbell's press conference came to an abrupt stop when one of his teammates, seated in the crowd, passed out and convulsed on the floor for several moments. It was quite a scary, surreal moment for everyone there who wasn't aware that the student has a medical condition and has had similar attacks on countless occasions because of anxiety.

"The funny thing is, whenever he gets excited that happens," Campbell explained. "We're used to it, that's why we weren't going crazy or anything … I think that hit on the video got him kind of roused."

It's safe to say Terps fans are pretty excited to have Campbell on board as well.

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