WESTFIELD, Ind. — Parris Campbell had seen sufficient, felt sufficient, suffered sufficient, and he wasn’t certain he may take any extra.

The Colts’ star-crossed receiver, chosen within the second spherical of the 2019 draft, couldn’t catch a break. He suffered three accidents in his rookie season that required surgical procedures — an stomach pressure, a hand fracture and a foot fracture, limiting him to seven video games. Then, after an offseason that included a concussion after a automotive accident, he tore up his knee — his MCL and PCL — ending his second season after simply two regular-season video games.

The former Ohio State star was at a crossroads, and sooner or later, he texted two members of the Colts coaching workers — Erin Barill, the staff’s director of sports activities medication, and Kyle Davis, the affiliate athletic coach — and wrote this:

“We need to talk,” he texted.

“Sure, what’s going on?” they responded.

They came upon a number of hours later. Campbell, who loved comparatively good well being as he got here up by the ranks in highschool in Akron, Ohio, and at Ohio State, was struggling after two straight years of ache and rehab.


This deal with by the Vikings’ Harrison Smith ended Parris Campbell’s 2020 season. (Michael Hickey / Getty Images)

“I’ve never told anyone this,” Campbell mentioned not too long ago after a apply at Grand Park. “I walked in there, they had been ready for me, and I mentioned, ‘I genuinely feel like we’ve accomplished all we are able to do. We’ve actually tried all the pieces. It’s been three months and I nonetheless can’t bend my knee past 90 levels.’ Every day was so painful, simply push on it and push on it, and it wouldn’t transfer. I couldn’t see the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel. Where was the sunshine? It’s human nature, I’m questioning if I’ll ever get again to the place I used to be. It’s three months after surgical procedure and I nonetheless can’t bend my leg. I imply, what are we doing right here?

“In that moment, I was OK with that (retiring). I had accepted this might be over for me because that’s realistic. I had to look within myself. I wasn’t quitting, because I don’t quit at anything I do, but that was my breaking point. ‘I’m going to accept reality.’”

The tears flowed freely that day. He tried to carry it collectively; he actually did. But the emotion of the second overwhelmed him.

“They (the Colts trainers) had my back, they were supportive and understood where I was coming from,” Campbell mentioned. “They comforted me. They instructed me they’d seen guys undergo this, and so they had been sincere about the truth that my MCL tear was one of many worst they’d ever seen.

“So they let me get it out, say all the pieces I needed to say, however they know the actual me. And they know if I might have stopped rehab at that time, I might have regretted it the remainder of my life.

“So they were honest. I was mad, I was fighting them. It took me a couple of days away to clear my head and think and come back with a different mentality. The knee was still stiff, still sore, still painful, but I got back home, thought some more and looked myself in the mirror and said, ‘I’ve got to do this, not only for myself but for my family, my teammates, coaches, the staff who brought me here.’ After that conversation, I came back with even more motivation.”

Colts followers know the story. The three surgical procedures his rookie yr. The devastating knee damage that ended his second season and nearly ended his profession; he nonetheless remembers the pop and the ache. There was a 3rd damage final yr, this one to his foot, lowering his season to 6 video games. There had been moments when he flashed the pace and elusiveness that made him such a possible weapon in head coach Frank Reich’s offense, however then it occurred … once more, and once more, and once more.

He heard the whispers, which seemed like a roar: Dude’s injury-prone. Can’t depend on him to remain wholesome. Made of glass … 

“That was the darkest time; the knee injury was the hardest for him and the whole family,” mentioned his spouse, Taylor Campbell, as she watched a latest apply at Grand Park. “He was actually unable to be as current as he’d prefer to be for the children (4-year-old son Kai and 6-month-old daughter Skylar) and that was actually exhausting for him. I noticed it. I may really feel it.

“He was ready to quit. We came home after surgery, he laid down, and normally in the past, before anesthesia had even worn off, he’d be watching film, he’d be doing rehab in the bed — in the bed — but this time, he wasn’t doing any of that right away like normal. So I’m thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ That was the hardest time. I knew he didn’t want to go through rehab again. I knew he couldn’t quit but his body wasn’t cooperating. It was a very frustrating, tough time for him. For all of us.”

After a number of days of thought, Campbell returned to rehab and obtained himself prepared for the 2021 season — when it occurred once more. This time, it was his foot, which he damage in Week 6 towards Houston. Another surgical procedure. Another rehab. Three years, three seasons … scuttled, shattered. What was his future? Did he have one?

“I’ll be honest, at that point, I didn’t think I’d get back to where I was,” Campbell mentioned not too long ago. “My household, my spouse and mother (Shelly Woodruff), all people, they had been at all times supporting me, attempting to maintain me optimistic. But it’s so exhausting to do, to remain optimistic, and anyone who says it isn’t is mendacity to you. It’s lonely, man. People don’t notice it as a result of they don’t see it however if you endure a season-ending damage, you are available for rehab for two ½ hours after which go house. Meanwhile, the staff is at conferences, hanging out, everybody collectively.

“I got so lonely. Sundays, I’d be watching at home and it was miserable. At times, I wouldn’t even turn on the game because it was so hard to watch.”

Said Taylor Campbell: “I kept thinking, ‘This isn’t Parris. This isn’t the person I know.’ It was very hard.”

His agent recommended he think about pursuing skilled assist for his psychological well being as he handled the pressure of repeated accidents, plus a pandemic that challenged everybody in distinctive methods. “Drove me insane,” Campbell mentioned, shaking his head.

He thought lengthy and exhausting about it however selected as a substitute to speak by his points along with his household, which, alongside along with his religion, has at all times been his rock. His spouse and his mom had been involved; soccer had briefly misplaced its luster for Parris, however they talked, and so they talked some extra, and the choice was made to proceed to journey.

“I’ll always trust him in what he sees for his life, but he hasn’t done all this and gone through all this year after year not to see it through,” Taylor mentioned. “He’s got so much talent and potential; I know I’m biased, but he has something special and everybody is going to see it this year.”

He is on the precipice of his fourth season, the ultimate yr on his rookie contract, his make-good season, and he’s in a really totally different place. He wants to remain wholesome. He wants to supply for a staff that’s relying on him and rookie Alec Pierce to hitch Michael Pittman Jr. within the beginning lineup. He is aware of all this, is aware of it deep in his marrow.

“My career thus far hasn’t been what I’ve wanted it to be,” he mentioned. “That’s about to change.”

This time, he believes, shall be totally different. He is aware of that accidents occur with scary regularity on this sport, and he is aware of fluke issues happen — he is aware of all that first hand. But he’s accomplished all the pieces potential this low season to vary the trajectory of his profession, together with committing to a inflexible diet program and using a hyperbaric chamber. His physique is true, and so is his thoughts.

“In the past, I don’t want to say I took things for granted or didn’t appreciate it, but like now, I appreciate it and the abilities I’ve been blessed with that much more,” Campbell mentioned. “I had the sport taken away from me three straight years. I needed to sit at house. Going by all of this has modified my mindset. I’ve been blessed to rehab from some critical accidents that some guys don’t come again from.

“The opportunity I have now, it’s everything. It’s everything.”


Shelly Woodruff walked down from the stands at Grand Park to talk to a reporter and search shade from the oppressive August warmth. Here she was, coming over and, um, what’s that?

Her proper foot and ankle had been encased in a strolling boot.

This household can’t catch a break.

She tripped over her husband’s sneakers throughout a latest transfer to a brand new house in Akron, fell awkwardly and tore a ligament in her toe and suffered a tiny hairline fracture. Now she’s within the boot. Six weeks. Of course.

“That’s OK,” she mentioned with a broad smile. “I’ll take all of Parris’ injuries. Give them to me. Keep him healthy.”

Woodruff, who raised Parris as a single mother, sees one thing totally different and but someway acquainted in her son. She noticed it at Ohio State, the place he struggled to discover a positional house earlier than breaking out his senior yr with 90 receptions for 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns.

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Shelly Woodruff (Bob Kravitz / The Athletic)

She is optimistic her son is able to do massive issues. This isn’t a mom’s blind love; properly, a few of it’s, however she will be able to really feel it, see it in his eyes.

“Just like year four at Ohio State, that’s what this reminds me of,” Woodruff mentioned. “His state of mind, his complete being — ‘I’ve gotta get it.’ Pushing himself to go to Arizona (to coach within the offseason), with out the household. He instructed me, ‘Mom, you’ve obtained to step up and assist with the infants. I’ve obtained to prepare, I’ve obtained to do that.’

“He’s just grinding every day, putting his head down and doing the work. I tell him all the time, ‘This is like 2018,’ and I know he feels that, too. He talks, he says, ‘People say I’m made of glass.’ I’m like, ‘I’m his mother, I take offense to that. I made a child of glass? Is that what people are saying?’ When they take a dig at you, they’re taking a dig at me. I was a single mother who raised you by herself, did whatever it took, so it’s hurtful to me. That’s why I don’t have social media.”

His spouse sees it too.

“When the children are house and so they’re enjoying, he’s watching movie, finding out. It’s his life proper now and the final time I noticed that was earlier than his senior yr at Ohio State.

“That’s the last time I saw that clarity, focus and confidence, and it was right after (Kai) was born, so to see it again right after (Skylar) was born, it feels like it’s all come back.”

He is doing this for himself, in fact; that is his profession, his dream, however extra, he’s doing it for his household. He is aware of there’s no time or place for self-pity. It’s time to indicate the Colts and, properly, himself, that he can keep wholesome and be a big-time participant on this league.

So far, so good. He spent ample time this offseason working with new quarterback Matt Ryan, and has stood out in nearly each coaching camp apply. Campbell, who will play within the slot, is a hazard to defenses when he’s working the center of the sphere, and that’s an space the place Ryan excels.

“That’s his bread and butter, those crossing routes, and that’s where I feel most comfortable,” Parris mentioned. “At one point (in practice), he told me I tempo’d out of a route because I got in the window too fast and he’s like, ‘Trust me — run, just run — and that goes a long way toward building that trust.”

First-year receivers coach Reggie Wayne is bullish on Campbell.

“He’s rolling,” Wayne mentioned. “He had a good offseason … It’s happening, it’s happening. He’s getting that confidence and that’s the biggest thing. And that’s the one thing that I’m here to do. I’m trying to build that confidence up, you know, even if you feel like it’s down a little bit. I’m his biggest cheerleader … He’s been playing well, man.”

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Parris Campbell seems to be to offer a wanted piece of the Colts’ broad receiver corps. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)

Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady is like everybody else inside the group — mesmerized by the concept of what may be if Campbell can simply get by a season in good well being.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Brady mentioned. “This is his year for him to show out and we’re ready for that … You can feel his speed out on the field, so we’re excited about that.”

Woodruff sees her son writing a well-recognized story, one marked by early adversity, adopted by breakthrough success.

“Nothing in Parris’ life has come easy. Nothing,” she mentioned.


Kai Campbell, a wide-eyed, curly-haired 4-year previous with pink popsicle stains on his mouth and fingers, isn’t accomplished consuming.

“Ice cream,” he tells his mom. “Ice cream sandwich. Now, mommy. Ice cream sandwich.”

Taylor is attempting to do an interview; Kai isn’t . He needs ice cream. He should have ice cream.

“Just a minute, Kai,” she retains saying.

Everybody is aware of what the Campbells have been by with all of Parris’ accidents these previous three years. But in 2018, they confronted a far higher problem.

“We almost lost him,” she mentioned of her son and his tough delivery. “He obtained caught and he wasn’t respiratory when he was born.

“They were telling us he would never walk and never talk if he even survived. He had an MRI and they told us he had pretty extensive brain damage. And we had those conversations, like, ‘Why is this happening?’ Even then, I remember telling Parris that the God we believe in is bigger than us, so how can we always expect to understand His plan for us? It’s the meaning of faith.”

Twelve months later, the Campbells introduced Kai in for a check-up.

All their fears vanished; Kai, they had been instructed, was simply high quality. He would stroll and discuss and pepper his mom with requests for an ice cream sandwich, similar to another hungry 4-year-old.

“It was a miracle,” she mentioned. “I tell Parris all the time, we’ve been through a lot, but we’ve always persevered. Just like he’s doing now.”

Kai would quickly get his ice cream sandwich, then transfer on again to the stands to sit down along with his household.

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Taylor and Parris Campbell with son, Kai, and daughter, Skylar, at Colts coaching camp. (Courtesy of the Campbell household)

On the sphere, Parris was doing what he’s at all times accomplished when he’s been wholesome, making performs over the center of the sphere, displaying off the mesmerizing expertise the Colts desperately hope to see in full bloom this soccer season. It’s time for Campbell to shine. Finally.

Still, the query needed to be requested: What if, heaven forbid, it occurs once more?

Campbell didn’t flinch on the query. He is aware of what all people is considering — properly, all people outdoors of his household circle.

“I would persevere again, to be honest with you,” he mentioned. “We’ve been by a lot the final couple of years, however the way in which I see it, you’ll be able to throw the entire kitchen sink at me and I’ll persevere.

“I can’t give up now. If I did, what would this all be for?”

(Top photograph: Zach Bolinger / Associated Press)



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