TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – George Campbell heard all the whispers as they grew louder and louder.
And, sidelined with a core-muscle injury for much of last season, he couldn’t do much to silence them.
That injury was the latest in a series of ailments that conspired to keep Campbell off the field for much of his first two years at Florida State, and it led to some fans and media wondering if the former five-star prospect would ever make much of an impact in Tallahassee.
So, yes, as Campbell hauled in a deep pass for a 60-yard gain during FSU’s game against North Carolina State last week, he was feeling pretty good.
“That means the world to me,” Campbell said. “It really does. It’s not even about making plays. It’s about being healthy and being able to contribute to the team.
“I’ve got a lot of people that talked down on me.”
They’re not talking down anymore. Not after Campbell caught three passes for 84 yards – including that 60-yarder – against the Wolfpack.
And not after snagging a 21-yard completion that moved the Seminoles deep inside Alabama territory during FSU’s season-opener.
Through two games, Campbell, a Clearwater native, is second on the team with 106 yards on just four catches, good for an average of 26.5 yards per catch that ranks second in the ACC and eighth in the country.
Which means he’s already blown past the three catches and 42 yards he had in the two years prior.
“It’s the first time he’s been healthy since he’s been here,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He was never healthy. It was nothing he did, it was just, some guys get hurt.
“And then George is a very hard worker and learns very well. Very conscientious young man, is going to be a really good player.”
With his injuries behind him, Campbell last week finally showed off all the abilities that made him such an exciting prospect in the first place.
He flashed the burst needed to gain separation from his defender, used his 6-foot-4 frame to pick the ball from the air, then fended off another pursuer with a stiff-arm as he made his way down the sideline.
He might have scored, too, had NC State’s Jarius Morehead not grabbed a hold of Campbell’s jersey collar and dragged him down.
And as if his receiving effort wasn’t enough, Campbell also later broke free for a 24-yard kick return, too.
“Just being able to go out there and have fun with my team at 100 percent is a great feeling,” Campbell said. “And being able to give back to the team is even better.
“Because I’m a team player. I want to do anything for my team. I would do anything for Coach Fisher. I trust him. I believe in him. So, when I can do what I can, I want to do it.”
Having Campbell in the mix could turn out to be a big blessing for the Seminoles, who entered the season expecting to lean heavily on the trio of Nyqwan Murray, Auden Tate and Keith Gavin.
But Campbell has already produced as much as anyone besides Tate, and with Tate still day-to-day with a shoulder injury, Campbell might find his role expanding in a hurry.
That’s just fine with Fisher, who believes that everything Campbell has showed so far will be a perfect addition to FSU’s offense.
“He creates plays,” Fisher said. “He can block. He can run with the ball after a catch. … George is a talented guy and a really great special teams player, too.”