INDIANAPOLIS — Parris Campbell still has the custom T-shirt and the memory of the slight against his speed.
The Ohio State wide receiver will be sticking with the NFL Combine-issued gear on the field on Saturday, but he’ll still have the motivational fuel from last summer when he wasn’t listed as one of college football’s fastest players handy when he takes the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for his eagerly-anticipated 40-yard dash.
There will be no doubt about where Campbell stands among his peers anymore with every team in the league watching and a stopwatch delivering the cold, hard facts. And his two sprints might just steal the show for the entire weekend with some speculation that he could post the most blazing time and maybe even put up a record-setting number.
“I still got [the shirt], I still got it,” Campbell said with a smile on Friday. “You know, that was something that I honestly took to heart at first. Throughout the season, it kind of faded away as a joke or whatever. But that’s still in the back of my head for sure. Just being the player I am, being the person I am, I take pride in it.
“So, when it first came out, it was like: Maybe they didn’t watch enough film or something. I did take it to heart, but this season I did what I did and I excelled. I think I turned it into a positive, for sure.”
Campbell consistently unleashed his top gear last season for the Buckeyes and posted one of the most prolific receiving campaigns in school history, boosting his professional stock every time he found a sliver of daylight and broke away from hapless defenders on the way to the end zone.
His decision to return for one more season with the Buckeyes was clearly validated on the field, and that ensures he’ll have no shortage of eyeballs on him during his official NFL Combine testing drills. And that group will include a couple former teammates, particularly since cornerback Kendall Sheffield and Campbell’s wideout buddy Terry McLaurin believe they might have a chance to beat him to the finish line.
“I guess we’re going to see,” McLaurin said. “I mean, we’re all competitive. We’ve seen Kendall around here, and that’s what Ohio State breeds. We do all these NFL Combine tests at Ohio State and we’re competing against each other.
“We’re trying to beat our own times, but I want to beat Parris. Parris wants to beat me. Kendall wants to be the fastest. It’s just how we were built at Ohio State, and it makes things fun. You come out here and compete against your peers.”
The Buckeyes aren’t just competing against themselves, obviously.
But there are multiple candidates to win the NFL Combine Crown for the fastest man in the draft all coming from Ohio State. And that’s a race that shouldn’t be missed.
“I’m just looking to go into it confident, positive,” Campbell said. “Nah, not [nervous] at all. I think in environments like this with different testing and drills, I think I thrive and it will be good for me. I know I’m a fast player, I know that’s one of my attributes. I just have to be critical with my details, my start, drive phase, finish.
“I just know it’s going to be fast. I’m extremely confident in myself, for sure.”
And now Parris Campbell gets to prove once and for all that his speed should never be overlooked.