MORGANTOWN — Football always came easy to George Campbell, at least until he got to college.
Campbell was a five-star recruit coming out of East Lake High in Florida. He was not only one of the best players in the football-rich Sunshine State for the class of 2015, he was one of the best players in the country.
Although Campbell originally gave a verbal commitment to play football at the University of Michigan, when it came time to sign a National Letter of Intent he chose to stay closer to home and attend Florida State.
Seems like a good match, right? Florida State has a long history of churning out professional wide receivers, and Campbell appeared poised to become the Seminoles next great pass catcher. Unfortunately for Campbell and FSU, however, it did not work out as either has hoped.
Campbell spent his freshman season primarily on special teams. He finished 2015 with three catches for 42 yards — all coming against Texas State. He was honored as FSU’s special teams newcomer of the year following his freshman season, but that’s when the injuries began to pile up.
In 2016, Campbell sat out the entire season following offseason hip surgery. In 2017, Campbell caught six passes for 122 yards during Florida State’s first four games, but complications from his previous surgery popped up and wiped out the rest of his season.
“There were definitely times when I [wondered] what was next or going to be the outcome for me,” Campbell said Saturday. “I’ve got a support system, and they support me very well and make sure I keep my head up.”
Campbell did manage to play in seven games for FSU in 2018, but in a season in which Florida State spiraled to the bottom portion of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings he was mostly a non-factor in the Seminole offense. With four years of college behind him and a degree in hand, Campbell sought to transfer from Florida State following 2018. After initially flirting with the idea of going to Penn State, Campbell landed at West Virginia with the idea being he could be an immediate impact player for the Mountaineers in Neal Brown’s first year as the head coach.
Fast forward to Saturday. West Virginia trailed James Madison 7-3 at halftime of its season-opener in Morganotwn, and the Mountaineers got the ball to start the third quarter. After not being able to move the ball very well during the first two quarters, WVU marched the ball into JMU territory with relative ease. Once there, however, the drive appeared to be stalling. Quarterback Austin Kendall couldn’t link with redshirt freshman receiver Sam James on first down from the JMU 24-yard line. Then James was flagged for a false start, pushing the Mountaineers back to the 29. Kendall gained a yard on the ground on second down, setting up an important third down from the 28 for West Virginia.
With Campbell in the game for James following the false start penalty, WVU took a shot at the end zone. Kendall threw one of his best passes of the day, and Campbell was there to collect the ball for the first WVU touchdown of the Neal Brown era, and also the first touchdown of his long, winding collegiate football career.
“The guys celebrated with me there [on the field] and they even celebrated with me in the locker room after,” Campbell said. “This team is just full of guys who are really energized and they’re all for us. It feels good having a team like this and teammate like this as well.
“It feels great, man. It’s a feeling like no other. Just getting back in, my mom texted me and just for her to be so happy for me it felt really good.”
What did Campbell’s mom have to say in the celebratory text message?
“First she said all praise goes to God, for one, but [also] how she was screaming at the TV at work,” Campbell said with a laugh. “Just to know that, feels very good.”