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Talented QB Trace Campbell Conquers Adversity, Bets on Himself

Talented QB Trace Campbell Conquers Adversity, Bets on Himself

Editor’s Note: It is an unlikely friendship. A southern woman originally from Indianola, Miss., and a young man from Maryland who enrolled in a military academy after his high school graduation last year.

How could such a friendship be forged? Ole Miss football, of course!

The Rebel Walk’s Patti Parks Rooney, a long-time Ole Miss fan, is a student of Rebel football. Early on this season, she wondered how the Landshark defense had improved so much from the version of just one short year ago. And one thing she noticed was the difference Maryland transfer Chance Campbell was making to the unit.

So Patti turned to social media to learn more about the defensive standout. That, in turn, led her to find out Chance has a very talented younger brother, Trace Campbell, who also plays football.

Here’s Patti and Trace’s story in their own words……

OXFORD, Miss. — Our Ole Miss 2021 football season had barely started, and I found myself wondering about the undeniable change in our defense.

I wanted to know about the new transfer linebacker from Maryland. It’d been a long time since I’d seen someone who seemed to be able to read the quarterback so well and then execute the correct play, time after time.

I perused Twitter and found Chance Campbell’s account hoping to gain a little insight into the guy. While I didn’t gain a whole lot of knowledge about Chance, what I did find piqued my interest. Chance kept tweeting and retweeting about another Campbell, his brother Trace.

Another follow on Twitter, then another and then a message or two with his parents to seek permission, and here we are….

Trace Campbell, who opted to attend and play football at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, has been offered by Ole Miss as a preferred walk-on (PWO). While he has not yet accepted the PWO, we know you’ll enjoy learning more about Trace.

A Day in the Life

Trace Campbell awakens early at exactly at 5:45am from the sound of a trumpet blaring Reveille.

He makes his bed, folds his blanket, and gets dressed in his fatigues. He then departs the military-style barracks where his bunk bed is lodged and marches down in formation to eat his breakfast with the other football players who attend Fork Union Post Graduate Academy in Virginia. 

After breakfast the group salutes the flag – also known as honoring the colors — and they march over to the chapel where, Trace says sincerely, “We hear a pretty good little message each day. It’s actually nice.”

All of this transpires before 8 a.m.

At 8:15, Trace and his teammates go to class, and at 10:30 it’s off for conditioning and training for 45 minutes. Then, beginning at 11:30 a.m., the group gets an hour for a shower, some lunch and then it’s back to class at 12:30 p.m.

Trace Campbell at Fork Union. (Photo courtesy Campbell Family)

As soon as class is dismissed, it’s military exercises, weightlifting and finally football practice.

Another shower and Trace heads straight over to the dining hall, where he eats his dinner at 5:15 p.m. At 7:10 p.m., he goes to retreat, brings the flag down and arrives back at the barracks for his allowed ten minutes of free time that begins at 7:50 p.m. The free time is not exactly free, as there is no calling home or other family and friends.

“From 8:00 – 9:30pm we have CQ,” Campbell told me. I stop him and inquire as to what “CQ” means.

“Closed quarters….” he tells me. “It’s where we dress in our uniforms, sit at our desk and study for an hour and a half.” I assume correctly the “uniform” is not what we consider a uniform. Again, military. 

Trace has just quarterbacked the team at Fork Union Post Graduate Academy to an undefeated season – a feat that has never been accomplished in the school’s history – until now.

Interestingly enough – Trace himself doesn’t provide me with this knowledge. I find this fact out on my own while I do research about him. I realize now that it’s telling of him. He wants more, and he’s not focused on what he’s already done. No, Trace is a young man looking to the future with his eyes wide open, and he isn’t going to stop until he succeeds. 

Athletics is in his blood

Trace grew up in Maryland with his other three siblings and his parents, Kati and Rick. Football is in his blood. His father Rick played under Joe Paterno at Penn State. Kati is an athlete as well, having completed five Ironman Triathlons.

Oldest brother Duncan was a two-time national lacrosse champ in college and is now active-duty military, and big brother Chance played football at Maryland until he decided to enter the transfer portal and chose to play linebacker for us right here at Ole Miss. 

Trace’s Journey

The summer before Trace entered high school, he was enjoying success on the field. He was playing well and would be attending DeMatha High School, one of the top football schools in the country, where more than a few NFL players have graduated.

He’d received public praise for his previous play at quarterback, and the University of Maryland had invited him to their top prospect camp.

Trace was feeling pretty good about his chances of getting an offer. However, the night prior to the start of camp, the unthinkable happened. His maternal grandmother, who’d been living with cancer and to whom he was close, passed away.

Trace Campbell and his beloved grandmother. (Photo courtesy of the Campbell family.)

“I went to camp anyway and laid an egg. I just wasn’t there mentally,” Trace says. Although his performance at camp was not indicative of the success to which he was certainly accustomed, he still made the varsity team at DeMatha and played – just not the way he had anticipated. 

Trace played four games with his freshman class but only one for DeMatha’s varsity team. If he played with the freshmen, he wasn’t eligible to play with varsity that week — and it wasn’t much fun not knowing with which teammates he would play and against which team, week in and week out.

When his sophomore season started, Trace found himself playing even better and thought that he might even be able to beat out the senior starting quarterback.

“I was starting to finally feel good again – so much more like myself – the way I had felt before my Grandma passed away….” he wrote to me in one of our email exchanges.

Then only four weeks before the start of the season and a nationally televised game against St. Thomas Aquinas on ESPN, Trace suffered and injury, sustaining another setback. No surgery was needed, but due to what his doctor believed was simply his growth spurt, he suffered a hip injury and sat the season out, healing rather than playing. 

Trace and family/friends enjoy an Ole Miss game recently, where big brother Chance Campbell plays. (Photo courtesy Campbell family)

While playing at DeMatha, Campbell had seen three offensive coordinator changes. His head coach left, and so did many of his teammates. Trace made the choice to change schools, leaving DeMatha and playing the rest of his high school career at Our Lady of the Good Counsel – OLGH for those of us not in the know. 

“My Dad knew the people there, and they had a super great strength coaching staff,” Trace told me of OLGH.

That summer he would wake up in the mornings and go “lift, run and condition” with the strength staff at Good Counsel. He’d throw in the afternoons, then play basketball at the gym at night.

Feeling like his old self again, Trace says he was “in crazy shape” and played the camp circuit, seven on seven tourneys and anywhere else he could find a game.

But two scrimmage games down — and just two days before his first game of the season —  he tore his labrum in his throwing shoulder.

Determined not to take another detour, Trace played on through the pain and the subluxation for the next four game.

His latest offensive coordinator was fired during the first game, and his head coach was now calling the offensive plays. Not willing to give up on the game, but unable to throw a football due to injury, Trace went in at wide receiver and even took some snaps on the other side of the ball, anything to stay playing in some sort of capacity.

After the season Trace took time off to have surgery, and he started thinking about his football future —  and then, as his senior season started, along came COVID.

Yet again, this time due to a global pandemic, Trace found himself with no ability to play, leaving him with what he felt was not enough game film.

Feeling bummed and being a quarterback at heart, Campbell missed out on a tight end commitment opportunity from Cincinnati. Knowing his own versatility and thinking at times perhaps it wasn’t in God’s plan for him to be a college quarterback, Campbell accepted an Air Force offer as an outside linebacker.

“I figured if I wasn’t gonna play at quarterback then I was gonna hit the quarterback,” Trace explained.

But barely a month later, he decommitted from Air Force. An ADHD prescription rendered him ineligible to play. His honesty is honorable, as he simply told the truth in a post from his Twitter account. However, his heart was a bit banged up.

Healing and moving forward

So, Trace Campbell started to heal yet again – this time mentally.

He knew he needed to clear his head. He’d had five offensive coordinators at two schools in three years. He knew he needed more film of himself than he had currently.

Feelings of frustration while forging his future fueled Trace to seek out the assistance from close friends and family, his brother Chance included.

One day Trace was just sitting in his room – mad at the world and I just told him, ‘You can either be mad at the world and feel sorry for yourself, or you can use this as a positive. Go be a quarterback, that’s what you love, and you can play it at the highest level.’

Ole Miss linebacker Chance Campbell on his QB brother, Trace Campbell

Change came quickly after that.

I just decided to trust the process, trust myself and trust God to take it from there.

Trace Campbell

He decided to forgo college for a year and head to Fork Union. 

Fork Union Military Academy’s Post Graduate football program seems exceptionally elite. No fewer than 117 of its athletes have gone on to play in the NFL, including a Heisman winner – Eddie George.

I again think about the fact that Trace Campbell never once mentioned to me his accomplishment – about leading his team to win every game.

I think about the fact that he has a 4.0 grade point average. How, even when he was not satisfied with the performances he put on tape, the offers continued (and continue) to come.

Nearly 20 opportunities now, including: Harvard, Penn, Columbia, Fordham, New Mexico, Old Dominion, Bucknell, and Yale, to name a few. His first offer from William and Mary came as a sophomore.

Campbell was also accepted at the prestigious Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.

As mentioned above, he’s been given a preferred walk-on opportunity at Ole Miss, and more offers will surely be forthcoming.

As Trace puts it, he’s “…in the best headspace I’ve been in since I was a little boy, and I’m not doing anything now but betting on myself.”

One final point – – When I was putting this story together, Trace and I emailed back and forth and spoke on the phone. It was important to me that I get it right. We had been discussing how I wanted to phrase something a couple of times, and finally I got a note from him that said simply this:

I felt like I was top notch player, stuff knocked me off my path, so I rolled with the punches, persevered and I’m still that top notch player – it all just happened a little later than planned.”

Trace Campbell

Well played, Trace Campbell, well played.

About The Author

Patti Parks Rooney

Patti Parks Rooney is just past the age of fifty, hails from the Mississippi Delta and likes, in no particular order: a tin roof, Taylor Swift, George Strait, Lana Del Ray and Miles Davis, Diet Chick-fil-A Lemonade and Coke Zero, writing poetry, gardening, her godchild, shoes, history, Kimi Raikonnen and Formula One racing, art, beaches, really good pinot noir, the number sixteen, Yellowstone, Ozark and Arrested Development, friends that can utilize a grill, trips that require air travel, bond fires in summer or fall, and, of course, The Grove and Ole Miss football. You will not find a 'Live, Laugh and Love' sign in her home. She says it’s nothing personal. You will, however, find the tv on the SEC channel most all times. She currently resides in Oxford, is mom to Hollywood, her cat of 15 years, and works in the mental health field. PS - She understands you can never underestimate the significance of Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense in professional football.

1 Comment

  1. Paula Micka

    Great article about a great young man! .


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