Jayru Campbell's redemption tour continues as GLIAC player of the year

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Early in the week, after the half-hour-or-so early morning meeting of the quarterbacks, Jayru Campbell takes a cat nap on the couch in coach Tony Annese's office. The QB meeting usually ends around 8:15, and Campbell has class at 9:30. It's just more convenient to stay there than head home.

This week, when Campbell woke up, Annese had some good news.

Ferris State quarterback Jayru Campbell is the GLIAC player of the year.

Campbell, Ferris State's first-year starting quarterback, had just been named Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the year.

"And he just said, 'That's good,' and went to class," Annese said, laughing, telling the story. "He celebrates team success, and it's only when everybody's at their best. Even if we win and we're not at our best, he's not celebrating. He has very high expectations. And it's made a big difference on how our team really approaches every day.

"If everybody's not on point every day, look out. Jayru's not going to be happy."

Campbell, more times than not, has been solidly on point for the Bulldogs, the GLIAC champs who are 11-0 heading into Saturday's Division II playoff opener against Harding. He has thrown for 2,368 yards, while rushing for 1,162 yards (tops in the nation among DII quarterbacks) and 19 touchdowns. In total, he's accounted for 42 TDs. He's completed nearly 60 percent of his passes.

An excellent decision-maker — 22 passing touchdowns, to five interceptions — he's been the absolute engine behind a Ferris State offense that's fifth in the nation in rushing yards, and 12th in scoring offense. The Bulldogs average more than 41 points.

Campbell almost certainly be a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is the DII equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

He's been quite the story this year, for all the right reasons. That wasn't always the case.

Campbell's long, winding journey to Big Rapids has been well-documented. The short version: He led Detroit Cass Tech to back-to-back state championships before the turmoil started. He bodyslammed a school security guard, landing him in jail. After his release, he pushed an ex-girlfriend, landing him back in jail. The ordeals cost him his scholarship at Michigan State, and he ended up at a junior college in Kansas for two years, where he won a national championship with Garden City Community College.

He transferred to Ferris State, sat out last year, and took over the offense this year — and he hasn't looked back.

"I was just talking about that today. I looked at him and said, 'Boy, you've really achieved a lot so far,'" said Annese, who himself won GLIAC coach of the year honors "I said, 'If I had to set expectations for you in August, you've exceeded them all, moving to this point on this day.' And he just looked at me and said, 'Coach, we really haven't done anything yet,' and I laughed.

"What he's achieved is amazing. You never really expect that going into a season. We didn't know how well he would grasp our offense, we didn't really know how smart of a football player he is, we didn't know how much of a competitor he is. And so, all three of those things have just been beyond what a dream could have been. His football IQ is incredible. His passion to be the best is second to none.

"Yeah, it's just beyond anything I would've dreamed."

Ferris State, as has been its preference much of the season, did not make Campbell available for an interview this week.

Ferris State is the No. 2 seed in its quadrant of the Division II bracket, and a win there and a win by Grand Valley State (11-1) at home Saturday against Northwest Missouri State would make for a fascinating second-round matchup — and a rematch of the regular-season thriller between the rivals, won by Ferris State.

Hillsdale (9-2) also made the playoffs, and plays at Kutztown (Pa.) on Saturday.

Among other GLIAC award winners, Northern Michigan senior running back Jake Mayon was offensive back of the year, Ferris State senior offensive tackle Devon Johnson was offensive lineman of the year, and Davenport senior Brian Williams was named defensive back of the year.

All-GLIAC first team

►Jayru Campbell, QB, Ferris State

►Jake Mayon, RB, Northern Michigan

►Andrew Vaughn, RB, Ashland

►Chawntez Moss, RB, Grand Valley State

►Pete Cender, TE, Grand Valley State

►Chad Gailliard, WR, Saginaw Valley State

►Nick Dodson, WR, Grand Valley State

►Jacob Wenzlick, WR, Michigan Tech

►Sy Barnett, WR, Ferris State

►Ben Walling, OL, Grand Valley State

►Nic Sawyer, OL, Ferris State

►Devon Johnson, OL, Ferris State

►Tommy Richardson, OL, Wayne State

►Ethan Culberson, OL, Grand Valley State

►Israel Helms, OL, Wayne State

►James Prater Jr., DL, Ashland

►Austin Edwards, DL, Ferris State

►Derrick Calloway, DL, Davenport

►Heath Williams, DL, Saginaw Valley State

►Mike Pettis, Grand Valley State, DL

►Delon Stephenson, DB, Ferris State

►Brian Williams, DB, Davenport

►Jacob Studdard, DB, Grand Valley State

►Tyler Bradfield, DB, Grand Valley State

►Isaiah Stiverson, DB, Ashland

►Clay Shreve, LB, Ashland

►Sam Heyboer, LB, Ferris State

►Michael Alexander, LB, Saginaw Valley State

►Brendan McMahon, LB, Grand Valley State

►Anthony Pittman, LB, Wayne State

►J.J. McGrath, PK, Grand Valley State

►Michael James, P, Michigan Tech

►Nate Couturier, KR, Davenport


Twitter: @tonypaul1984