ATLANTA (Oct. 10) — Whether he’s racing for touchdowns or eluding punishment as a youngster, Georgia Tech sophomore flanker Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) has always used his speed to his advantage.
“Ever since I’ve grown up in elementary school, middle school and high school, I’ve been known to be the fastest guy,” said Campbell, who can now be called Tech’s fastest man. “I have to give honor to God because that’s a gift He’s blessed me with. I really don’t know how fast I am, but I keep getting tested each and every day.”
Campbell’s speed will be put to the test once again this week as the Jackets (4-1, 2-1 ACC) travel to Duke for their first Atlantic Coast Conference road game of the year at noon Saturday in Durham, N.C. The game will televised regionally on the ACC/Jefferson-Pilot network and can be seen on FOX Sports Net South in Atlanta. The Blue Devils (1-4, 1-2 ACC) are coming off a 24-17 double-overtime win against Virginia.
“This is another important ACC game,” Campbell said. “Right now with the teams in the ACC, you don’t know who is going to win. That’s why you have to play everybody hard, because you never know what could happen. Virginia was a big win for Duke. I know they will be fired up over that win and will be ready for us. We have to go up there with the right mindset and play well.”
Against North Carolina last Saturday, the Jackets found out they can win while not playing so well. Despite turning the ball over six times that resulted in 14 North Carolina points, the Jackets rallied for a 31-24 win against the Tar Heels in the first overtime game in Tech history.
“We made some mistakes but picked it up and never gave up,” said Campbell, who equaled the fourth-best receiving total in school history with 203 yards against the Tar Heels. “As long as the clock was ticking we knew that we still had the opportunity to win. We hung in there as a team and came out with the win. I think the game was a lesson to us. We have to play every game like its for the national championship.”
Sixty-seven of Campbell’s 203 yards came on Tech’s final drive in regulation that set up a 36-yard game-tying field goal by freshman Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.). Campbell had receptions of 32 and 35 yards as the Jackets drove 79 yards in seven plays with 1:10 left. Campbell nearly ended the suspense in regulation, but was slightly out of bounds just inside the Tech goal line on a Joe Hamilton (Alvin, S.C.) pass. Campbell did, however, have quick-strike touchdown grabs of 47 and 59 yards.
“I thought Kelly Campbell had an outstanding game,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “It’s obvious he’s getting better and better at his position. People have to be aware of where he is on the field, which opens up some other things on offense.”
Campbell’s emergence has given the Jackets another weapon in their explosive offense arsenal and has helped take some of the pressure off junior Dez White (Orange Park, Fla.), Tech’s top receiving threat of a year ago.
To date, Campbell leads the team in receptions with 26 for 473 yards and four touchdowns. He is averaging 18.2 yards per catch and 94.6 yards per game.
“The coaches talked to me last spring and throughout the summer about me stepping up and making big plays,” Campbell said. “Dez had an excellent year last year, and we knew that Dez was going to be double-covered a lot this year. We needed other receivers to come forward and make big plays in order to spread out and help the offense. We have people like Kerry Watkins (LaPlace, La.), Jon Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.) and myself who have stepped up and tried to help Dez out. Now we have opened up the offense and opposing defenses don’t know who to check.”
The speedy Campbell first remembers someone noticing his blur as a 7-year-old Little Leaguer in baseball.
“I used to run the bases and steal a lot,” recalls Campbell. “People used to come up to me all the time and tell me, ‘You run just like Deion Sanders.’ Since then, I’ve participated in anything that had to do with running.”
In addition to football, Campbell was also a track standout for Atlanta’s Mays High School, winning the 1998 Georgia AAAA state championship in the 4-x-400 meter relay and triple jump. He also placed second in the 200 and 400 meters.
“Track helped me a lot,” Campbell said. “It taught me how to compete, build my speed and improve my conditioning and foot work.”
Campbell’s mom Belinda might say eluding punishment after engaging in minor mischief may have helped him most of all.
“I used to take all the pots and pans out of the cabinet and tried to steal cookies from the cookie jar,” Campbell said. “I would run away and hide, and my mom would try to run after me, but she could never catch me. My mom, my grandma, no one could ever catch me.”