Javelin Campbell has gone from unknown to top 400 player nationally

Published 4:46 pm Thursday, May 16, 2024

It didn’t take Simon Vanderpool long after he got to Western Hills High School to know he needed to get Javelin Campbell on his football team.

The former defensive coordinator at Great Crossing High School was named Western Hills’ head coach in December, 2022, and once he saw the 6-5, 265-pound Campbell playing basketball he visualized how dynamic he could be on the football field.

“You could see this kid was very special athletically. I told our AD (athletics director) he was not going to be a college basketball player and he had a double-double that night.”

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Vanderpool had watched 7-footer Malachi Moreno of Great Crossing and Reed Sheppard of North Laurel play in high school and knew what future big-time college basketball players looked like.

“He is a football player with his physicality. He is going to be a very big guy because he’s only lifted weights for a year. He’s going to be massive. He’s built like a football player,” the Western Hills coach said. “He’s our all-time leading basketball scorer and can’t hit from midrange. He just bullies you down low and scores. But with his speed and physicality I knew he could be something different in football, the kind of player you don’t get very often.”

The coach talked to Walker’s mother at a basketball game about him playing football and made his case his best future options would be in football.

“I told her I had coached seven Division I athletes in the last six years, including one who started at Tennessee, and I told her watching him he could have a shot to be a special football player. The rest is history,” Vanderpool said. “I told her we would take care of him because like any mom she was worried about him getting hurt. I told her I worried more about him hurting other people.”

Campbell had played youth football but no high school football yet he had 14 1/2 sacks in eight games in 2023.

“He is just gifted,” Campbell said.

The Western Hills coach reached out to college coaches who had recruited some of his players before and shared Campbell’s film and measurables. However, even before Campbell played his first high school football he had a scholarship offer from Eastern Kentucky.

“They saw him in person, saw his measurable, knew the success he had in basketball and they were good,” Vanderpool said.

The coach’s connections paid off again when Minnesota was Campbell’s first Power-Five offer. Then Notre Dame offered and Vanderpool said everything “took off” to the point that Campbell recently told Penn State, Florida State and others he was not interested and did not want to waste their time.

“He went from nobody knowing who he was until two months later everybody knew who he was. Now he can go any place in the country and play,” the Western Hills coach said.

Campbell plans to take official visits to his final five schools — Ohio State, Kentucky, Georgia, Auburn and Alabama. He has made unofficial visits to Michigan and Tennessee but does not have a scholarship offer from either one among his 22 offers.

“I think he has a really good relationship with all of those schools, particularly Kentucky and coach (Vince) Marrow. Coach (Brad) white has been very, very involved along with coach Stew (Anwar Stewart). Coach White messages him quite a bit,” Vanderpool said.

Campbell has an 83 1/2 inch wingspan, a 10-inch hand and 34 1/2 inch arm. Recent first round draft pick Dallas Turner of Alabama was measured at 6-2, 247 pounds with a 9 7/8 inch hand and 34 3/8 arm. Vanderpool said college coaches have told him Campbell would have been in the top five in measurables in this year’s NFL draft at his position.

“He is very long. His true height without shoes is 6-4. He checks all the boxes,” Vanderpool said. “He was on a visit to Georgia with Elijah Griffin, one of the top players in the nation, he was taller than him.

“Some coaches recruiting him have compared him to (former UK star, current NFL player) Za’Darius Smith. The only difference is they say Javeon is longer based on measurables when Za’Darius went to the draft. I had multiple guys tell me if he had been in the NFL draft this year he would have been in the top five in measurable at his position. Knowing what he can be and how he’s not scratched the surface of what he can do is just exciting.”

Campbell has been working at tight end during spring practice after playing only defense in 2023.

“He was new last year and we just focused on defense. We are trying to teach him things as simple as how to get in a stance but he looks good at tight end,” Vanderpool said. “He’s probably going to play both sides of the ball and special teams. We are even talking about playing him at linebacker so teams just can’t run away from him

“Really, it just defies logic what he has been able to do. It just shows how talented this kid is with his combination of size, speed and tenacity. He is the type of kid who could play on Sunday (in the NFL). His story is almost unbelievable and it is even more special because he is such a phenomenal kid from such a great family.”