We’ve mentioned a few times over the past two weeks “Carl the Janitor,” a minor character in The Breakfast Club. Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli explained that he looks for those obscure figures in the lives of draft prospects in the hopes of getting to the truth about them.
As it turns out, the Titans used a seventh-round pick on a player who actually was a janitor. Cornerback Tommie Campbell, per TitanInsider.com, was yielding a mop at the Pittsburgh International Airport before getting an opportunity to return to college football, at California University of Pennsylvania.
He previously had played at Pitt and Edinboro, after a high-school experience that included running track with Darrelle Revis at Aliquippa High School. Academic issues ended his career with the Panthers; not showing up for classes was his downfall with the Fighting Scots.
“I left Pittsburgh and Edinboro and ended up at Cal after I was working at the airport as a janitor. I worked at the airport as a janitor for about six months,” Campbell told TitanInsider.com. “I didn’t expect to play football ever again at one point, and I got a call from Cal, and I went up there and did everything they asked me to do.”
When the opportunity came in the final round of the 2011 draft to land Campbell, the Titans pounced.
“He is well-traveled,” Tennessee V.P. of player personnel Ruston Webster said regarding Campbell. “Really what we saw in him was he was 6-2, 203 and he ran a 4.3 down at the all-star game. He was somebody that had some ability, and when you get here so late in the seventh, corners with that kind of size and speed, they’re hard to find. And usually when you try to sign them as free agents, when that opportunity came, we felt like that would be hard to do. Without any free agency, and that type of thing, it was the time to take a flier.”
Campbell was concerned that no one would take a chance on him. “I was very worried about that, because I knew going in there would be questions about my character. I wasn’t a bad person,” Campbell said “I just didn’t take care of my off-the-field responsibilities as a student-athlete. . . . I had a couple of teams call me and tell me they probably weren’t going to draft me, but that they’d give me a free-agent tryout.”
Though he’s hardly guaranteed a roster spot, he’s guaranteed a chance to win one. “The sense we got from him is that he’s hungry,” Webster said. “He’s gonna get his chance and with that kind of speed and ability, if he does what he’s supposed to do, then he’s got a chance to play in the National Football League.”
And so the next time Campell is in the Pittsburgh International Airport, he’ll be a passenger, not an employee.
“It’s just going to remind me to keep working hard, because that’s where I used to be at,” Campbell said. “It’s going to remind me that you can go back to cleaning toilets, or you can play football.”
That’s the kind of story that makes us love this game — and that also makes us hate the fact that, once again, the game is in limbo.