ESPN’s Sarah Spain recently featured Tennessee Titans defensive back Tommie Campbell on espnW. Below is a summary of Tommie’s inspirational story.
No matter how many times we fall down, we rise. Life isn’t easy – that’s the damn truth – but it presents us new opportunities each morning to make good on anything that happened yesterday we wish were different. We choose to compete every day because we know that each day is our opportunity to take advantage of the rest of our life.
Tommie Campbell was a single father working 9-5 as a Pittsburgh International Airport janitor in 2008. It was just two years since the sophomore star defensive back had suited up alongside future NFL players Jeff Otah and Darrelle Revis as a Pittsburgh Panther. Tommie failed to meet academic standards and was dismissed from school, forcing him to transfer to Edinboro University. Again, Tommie chose not to take his academic career seriously and found himself dismissed from school for skipping too many classes.
“I was playing games and doing little things to turn my life around,” he told ESPN. Late nights at the bars, living at home with his mother, and not focusing on his future was costing Tommie his life. He was doing anything but competing for his life. Out of school and football and with a family to support, Tommie knew he had to get things in gear and get a job. So he took a role as a janitor at the local airport. “It was humbling but at the same time I knew I was doing the right thing in life. I was working 40 hours a week and being the best father I could be to my sons. That was the goal.”
Tommie spent six months at the airport before he received a call – and a rare third opportunity – from California University of Pennsylvania, a nearby Division II school. Tommie was determined to compete for his personal and professional future this time around. A matured father by his off-field experiences, Tommie excelled in both the classroom and on the football field for Cal U. His play and natural ability led the Tennessee Titans to draft the young defensive back in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft. It was a drastic change in direction from cleaning gum from the airport bathroom floors he had been doing previously.
“It was a relief. For everybody. For my whole hometown, matter of fact. Everybody knew what I went through. My mother cried, I cried. Probably the greatest day of my life outside of my kids being born.” (espnW)
Tommie made an impact from day one. In a preseason game against the Chicago Bears, Tommie returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown. The team ended up cutting a veteran and another promising rookie in order to make a roster spot for Tommie. He’s excelled in his two seasons with the team and looks to be a lasting piece on a young team building for the future. It wasn’t the journey Tommie planned when he originally signed with the University of Pittsburgh coming out of high school, but it’s one he doesn’t take for granted. Second chances are rare and third chances are unheard of. Tommie credits his NFL success to his approach to competing every single day.
“I go out there every day and practice like it’s my last. I feel I could get cut tomorrow. I give it my all every single day when I get out there on that football field.” Never taking the moment for granted.
Tommie Campbell’s story proves that no matter where your story starts or how many times you fall off the tracks before you right things – all that matters is if you choose to compete and keep going. What are you going to make of your life from this day going forward?
Make it count. Compete.