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Posted on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.

Slimmed down Will Campbell says he owes Michigan football fans a great senior season

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan football senior defensive tackle Will Campbell is down to 310 pounds, and says he owes Wolverine fans a great senior season.

Jeffrey Smith |

In past years, Will Campbell likely wouldn't have addressed the media following the first day of fall practice.

Not by choice, but more out of necessity.

Overweight and out of shape for most of his career, Campbell generally spent the first week of Michigan football practice catching his breath and figuring out how he'd make it through the first month of the season.

Not this time, though.

"I'm not huffing and puffing anymore," the senior defensive tackle said after practice Monday. "I'm not dying right now."

There's more than one reason why Campbell wasn't "dying" after the first day of practice this season.

Actually, there's 46 reasons.

After beginning his highly-touted Wolverines career in 2009 at a whopping 356 pounds, Campbell weighed in Monday at a svelte 310 pounds.

He talked all spring about his desire to find a way to leave an imprint at Michigan for his final season, as did Michigan coach Brady Hoke.

Campbell was in better shape during spring drills, and had to fight through more adversity during the summer with an off-field arrest and the internal punishment that came along with it. But, apparently, he didn't rattle off the tracks.

For the first time in his career, and probably the first time in his life, Campbell is physically ready to live up to his five-star billing.

Why? Because he's got a few "IOU's" to work off.

About 110,000 of them.

"This is my last go-around," Campbell said. "I owe Michigan and these fans a lot.

"I came in with big expectations and didn't live up to them. And now, it's time to pay (up)."

Outside of intense off-the-field training this summer, Campbell was finally able to shake some of the poor eating habits that have haunted him over his time in Ann Arbor.

He tried to go with a "no wheat" diet for a short period of time, but found that to be difficult for energy purposes. So instead, he ditched any and all sweets.

The toughest omission? Honey buns.

"Will shows off his stomach more than I do," Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson joked. "You can tell that he lost that weight. And he did it for the team, he didn't just do it for himself.

"That's himself holding himself accountable, and we trust him and respect him for that."

Campbell's dedication to jump-starting his on-field career one last time hasn't just impressed teammates, it's also impressed the coaching staff.

So much so that they paired Campbell up with freshman defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins in the team's mentorship program. At 6-foot-3, 340 pounds, Pipkins will likely encounter some of the same weight-related challenges Campbell went through during his career.

And if Campbell has any say, his young roommate won't make the same mistakes he did.

"We look after someone, and Pee Wee, I happen to be his mentor," Campbell said. "I've been trying to talk with him, get in his head and make sure he doesn't make the same mistakes I did.

"I'm trying to make sure he gets the point way before I did."

Campbell's already cleared the biggest roadblock standing between himself and the football field. That, of course, being his health.

But whether or not he can be productive this season remains to be seen. Michigan needs it to happen in the worst way, and Campbell will have to prove he can be at his best when the lights come on Sept. 1 against Alabama.

Physically, he seems ready. Mentally? He'll have to wait and see.

It's been a long four years for Will Campbell, almost an eternity. And with one year left, anything less than a stark turnaround just doesn't seem to be acceptable.

"He’s worked his tail off during the summer from everything I’ve heard from players on this team," Hoke said. "He really was a guy who led by example.

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t (have a good season) because of his work ethic and his toughness and his leadership.”

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.


Steve McQueen

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.

Man Will looks very svelt in that photo.. He will be playing for Michigan this fall of course, but also he should be very incentivized... a great season and he will be drafted in the first 3 rounds. That is a huge financial incentive. Go big Will. Make it happen.

Leonard Thornton

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 9:39 p.m.

It's going to be a great year for Michigan football. GO BLUE

Christopher Potter

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

To heartbreak M: Did you pick your user name on account of the photo you use of Anthony Carter returning a kickoff in the 1980 Notre Dame game -- lost on Harry Oliver's last-play field goal? For me that was the second-most heartbreaking defeat UM gridders have ever suffered. The only game that tops it is Ohio State 1974 and Mike Lantry's field goal that was wrongly ruled no good. (I STILL haven't gotten over that one!) Anyhow, do you use this name in the fearful expectation that when it comes to M football something is inevitably going to go wrong? Actually, they've piled up a goodly number of last-second/overtime victories over the last 20 years or so. Keeping the faith, Chris Potter

Chad Williams

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

Here is a young msn who has taken accountability for his problems. Hes not blaming no one nut himself. Thats what real men do. You fans need to get over RR and his 3 years cause its been 2 since he has been gone. Michigan football is about accepting your loss or failure and learning from them to become better leaders and men. Seems like you fans need to do that as well because its always someone or something else that cause michigan to fail or succeed. Its funny how you give this staff credit for all good and positive things but a loss or negatives is on the last coach 2 years later. Hoke is in charge now and he is responsible for the success and failurea of this program. Like hoke said last year "NO EXCUSES". YOU FANS SHOULD DO THE SAME.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

I understand the weight issue and I respect WC for: A. Admitting that it was his fault on a personal level for not eating right and not conditioning enough. and B. for finally doing something about it. But I also feel that not all of his lack of success falls on his shoulders. I remember reading an article a few years ago about WC and his total dominance in HS football. The article basically said that he had little technique but was so dominant because he is 6'5" and 300+ Lbs IN HIGH SCHOOL. He didn't need technique then, he was WAY bigger then any player he ever faced and rolled past them into the backfield. Nobody could stop him. So he gets a 5 star rating and picked up by RR. Well, Freshman rarely see the field and especially not on the line. He plays one year on D-Line for RR, and as we all know, RR is the worst coach ever for defense. he didn't do ANYTHING to help the defense from a coaching stand point. All he cared about was his offense. As a result, no defensive player received any quality coaching, including WC. So here is a 5 star recruit, with little to no technique out of HS, and receiving very limited coaching on how to be a quality D-lineman. No wonder his stats sucked. No, RR decided to put him on O-Line to protect his precious spread offense and open holes for the QB. Why not, a 6'5" 300+ lb guy can open big holes right? Well, that did NOTHING for his D-Line stats. So everybody that is complaining about his career stats (8 tckls, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks) Don't forget, he received limited coaching under RR and didn't even play D-Line for 1 year. Now, here comes Hoke, a defense minded guy, and a D-Line guy with Mattison. And they put him back on D-Line. Spend 1 year actually teaching him the right way. and look at what is happening. He's losing weight, being "Accountable" to his team (heard that before somewhere?), and last year was his best year so far, stat wise. Now the BH and Co. are there actually COACHING him, I feel he is going to b


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

Enough of the articles and such......bottom line, it is time for him to show that he can play and do it consistently....


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:43 p.m.

It's great to see Will Campbell prepared, sold out, and with his head on straight. Although the credit for his turnaround goes to Will himself, I can't help but think that the staff had a lot to do with his transformation, also. It can't be underestimated the effect that coaches have on players at this age and how much a coach's attitude rubs off on his players. Some coaches have a way of getting the best out of players and Coach Hoke is one of them.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

Sometimes the journey to success takes longer. Will has had a tough time of it, don't forget, he's also a Rich Rod recruit, so he has been through three Defensive Coordinaters. He's found stability with Hoke and Mattison. He's walking the walk and let's see if he can speak volumes in play under game conditions. Good Luck to Will and Go Blue!!

Nick Baumgardner

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

Heartbreak: That subject has been brought up to a player like Campbell on multiple occasions. And while he does have a valid excuse with regard to his position changes and alternating defensive coordinators, he's never elected to go that way with an answer. Honestly, without exception, he's always put his shortcomings on himself. No one else. Like I said, he's been very honest and forthcoming in his recent interviews. He's been a pretty refreshing guy to speak with.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

Nick: Interesting comments. Do you ever broach the subject of the type of coaching he got or didn't get under the prior coaching staff? I know how bitter all of us alums and fans are, but what about the players? Do they feel shortchanged and bitter over the poor coaching that they got? Do they even perceive that? In Big Will's case--the 5 star expectations combined with the coaching shortcomings (perceived by me) would be an interesting interview.

Nick Baumgardner

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

Even in spite of all that, MRunner, Campbell had serious expectations coming in -- and has in no way met them to this point. The refreshing part has been hearing him admit that. You don't often hear guys own up to things like that. Not publicly, at least. Campbell's been very open and honest since March. An interesting guy to speak with.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

Good to know people don't think he's a disgusting fat body anymore. Now he needs to rip the heads off of some Big Ten QB's and ND and Alabama's. Go Blue.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

Uh, no, Will. You owe it to yourself and your family to have a big senior season. You don't owe me or any of these other fools anything.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

There are no fools on this site contrary to your foolish comment. This is an open site and you will hear many different thoughts and even some you whole heartedly disagree with but that does not make any one your self included a fool. I would like to see Will do well so that we have a better chance to win. I hope Will has a great year not only for Will but for all of us.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

Assuming he has been on scholarship since he has been at UM, I would say Will Campbell owed UM football fans great freshman, sophomore and junior seasons as well.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

@heartbreakM and @Hebner, you two sound like enablers. Campbell himself admits that he owes UM fans a great season, and he does not claim that the previous coaching staff had any responsibility for his subpar seasons prior to this one. Even if they did have some responsibility, his seasons very likely would have been better than they were if he had had more self-discipline resulting in being less overweight and in better condition.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 9:25 a.m.

It is about now...the freshman and sophomore seasons were not his fault to a certain point because of the really bad coaching.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

These players owe us fans and alumni nothing in particular, but really owe it to their teammates, coaches, and university. Really, my expectations are we "receive" only their best effort--not success on the field if they are not capable. And definitely, please, don't break the law. That to me is Big Will's worst transgression, and not his lack of success on the field.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

That's a nice sentiment- obligation to others. I wish him well. Without one big immovable tackle it could be a tough season. Go Will. Go Blue.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

C'mon Big Will (Well not so Big Anymore) We're all counting on ya Buddy. Standing in your Corner and rooting for ya!! Thanks for the Dedication and Commitment and Sacrifices for doing whatever it takes for Team 133. Go Blue!!

Nick Baumgardner

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

That was the most interesting part of it, to me, heartbreak. Here's Will Campbell, a guy who has been criticized his entire career for keeping his weight under control, as well as his conditioning. And now, he's mentoring a guy who came into camp as a rookie with similar issues (weight-wise). The staff trusting him enough to mentor Pipkins should say an awful lot about how far Campbell has come since Hoke and company arrived.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

310 still counts as pretty big in my book. I hope he is as successful as he wants to be. Took him a bit longer to grow (so to speak) into his role while shrinking. Good to see him acting as mentor too.