Jayru Campbell puts skills on video display for NFL scouts, is optimistic about his future

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Oak Park — Former Detroit Cass Tech and Ferris State quarterback Jayru Campbell would have loved to be invited to the NFL Combine last month in Indianapolis to show NFL coaches and general managers what he could do.

Campbell would have even enjoyed the opportunity to showcase his ability during Pro Day at Central Michigan University, which was set for Friday but cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jayru Campbell throws a pass during passing drills as he prepares a tape of his skills for NFL executives for the upcoming draft.

So, instead Campbell gave himself an opportunity when he took the field at Oak Park High School on Friday afternoon and worked with a few receivers — former Ferris State teammates Maliq Taylor and Jevon Shaw and former Little League teammate Nevarrio Davis — while getting it all taped to send to NFL personnel with the help of his agent Jason Burnstein.

It was fitting that Campbell was throwing the ball into a near-20 mph wind because that’s how his journey has gone, from brilliance of winning consecutive Class A state titles as quarterback of Detroit Cass Tech as a freshman and sophomore in 2011 and ‘12, to spending time in jail after an altercation with a school security guard, then an incident with his girlfriend, to helping Garden City Community College in Kansas to a Junior College National Championship in 2016 and then Ferris State to the Division II national title game in 2018.

Campbell has been on a roller coaster and he blames no one but himself for his past troubles and feels he has learned and grown up, putting himself in position to land a spot in the NFL … if given a free-agent tryout.

“I just know that it’s a dream that I can catch and a dream that I can handle, feel like I can definitely make something with it, that’s why I came out here to do this today, send the film in and see what I get,” Campbell said after his own personal Pro Day.

Campbell, who said he is just 10 credits from earning his degree (Integrative studies) and will be a father in weeks with his daughter (Skye) expected on May 5, felt he would get the opportunity to show his talent … before the COVID-19 pandemic reached new heights last week.

“A lot of eyes on me as far as scouts go, even competing maybe because I went to Ferris State and some of their pro days have been with other schools and universities, so I even thought about competing with other quarterbacks that would always give me a spark a little bit, that’s pretty much how I imagined it, not like this, but I’m still grateful I woke up this morning, so it’s not that big of a deal to me,” said Campbell, who is 6-foot-4, 207 pounds with 4.75 40 speed. “It’s time to really stay in shape because I know this virus thing is serious, a lot of people have been talking about it, it’s all over the world really. I know people want to stay safe.”

Campbell was offered a scholarship by Alabama head coach Nick Saban at age 14, then committed to play for Mark Dantonio at Michigan State before jail time ended his dream of playing for a Power Five team.

The odds are stacked against Campbell with no combine, no Pro Day, but he is confident he could make an NFL roster and play if given a chance.

“I wish I could have gotten in front of those guys (NFL coaches, general managers), I know if I would have gone to the combine, the conversations that they’re having in the NFL would have been way different right now, and I’m talking about Tua (Tagovailoa) to Jalen Hurts, to all those guys,” Campbell said. “I know the conversations would be different. Once you see us compared side by side, throw by throw, foot by foot, the vibe would definitely be different.

“The only reason I’m talking about it now is because you won’t ever see it, but that’s the truth. I got offered by Alabama when I was 14 years old, Jalen Hurts went to Alabama, Tua went to Alabama. There’s no telling what would have happened if I went to Alabama. I’m the same dude. I’ve been playing football since I was 7. I know a lot of kids have this dream and I know I’m among that top percent that worked really, really hard. I worked for this and there’s no way that I would have walked away without doing some type of Pro Day or sending some type of film to those guys due to my Pro Day being cancelled.”

Campbell has stayed in touch with his youth and high school coaches and keeps their words close to his heart.

“My coach from high school (former Cass Tech defensive coordinator and longtime current Belleville head coach Jermain Crowell) called me a couple of weeks ago and he told me that some people know what to do with an opportunity and I’m summing up the situation that if I sign in free agency I know that I’ll be the best quarterback on the team, not just the best free agent, but I’m going in there as the best quarterback on the team, and feel if I have the opportunity to compete I’m very confident that I’ll get on that 52-man roster,” Campbell said.

“This process definitely slowed or affected the small-time school guys like me, but like I said some people know what to do with the opportunity and if I get one, that’s that. I think I’ll get some type of opportunity, but at the end of the day I’m thankful to wake up every morning due to everything that’s going on in the world. I’m like 10 credits away from a college degree, so I know either way, football or not, I have something good coming my way. I have a little baby on the way so I’m looking forward to the future, whatever it holds.”

Campbell played quarterback and receiver at Garden City, then earned the Harlon Hill award — Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy — in 2018 as quarterback at Ferris State.

On Friday, Campbell made all the throws — while throwing into the wind — putting zip on the ball on slants while displaying his strong arm with 50-yard tosses with tight spirals on deep routes, as well.

When asked to evaluate his performance, Campbell replied: “I’m satisfied due to the conditions that we’re in. I had some pretty good balls. The 40 (4.75) feels good, I know it’s pretty windy. I feel like if you can play football than you can play football. The numbers as far as combine numbers and drills, they can look as good as they want, but once you put the shoulder pads and helmet on it’s different.”

When asked what he has to do to sell himself to NFL personnel, especially with his past, Campbell replied: “I definitely think that has something to do with how people look at me, how some might make judgement upon the past, a couple of incidents I had in high school, I have to take full responsibility, even if it’s 20 more years from now, it’s what I did, it was my actions so that’s what comes with it.

“I talk to some scouts and I can feel the genuineness. I know their profession is definitely about being a great human being, but it’s about football and I definitely think I possess both of those characteristics. I definitely know I can ball, and I know I’m a good person. I think it’s just really about somebody getting to know me, if it really, really is going to come down to that, I think a guy has to come and look me in my face and be able to really feel the vibe and really feel I’m a genuine person.”

Campbell missed the start of the season this past fall at Ferris State and missed the postseason as well.

“I had a floater in my foot, a little chip bone, wasn’t that bad but they had to remove it and I’m 100% now,” Campbell said of the injury that ended his season, then talked of the earlier setback. “I had UCL surgery on my left elbow, my non-throwing arm, but I’m definitely 100% with that, that was 13 months ago.”

Campbell was done talking about the past, just looking at what he hopes and feels will be a promising future.