From playing in Shelby Park to Stratford High School to Middle Tennessee State, Blue Raiders all-time leading rusher Joe Campbell never spent much time on the sidelines.
Even now, at age 46, Campbell can’t get used to not being on the field.
Not when he’s watching one of his eight children play or when he’s back at Stratford where he is president of the Spartans Booster Club.
His unwillingness to sit and watch inspired Campbell to start a football league for players who can’t deny they’re past their prime but are also determined to prove they’re not yet washed up..
It’s for anyone 40-and-over who doesn’t feel they’re over the hill.
Campbell hopes get the league kicked off next spring.
Many in this age demographic get winded simply playing catch with their kids or grandkids. If they do still feel up to playing, they stick to two-hand touch or possibly flag.
But not Campbell, who still has chronic aches and pains after suffering his share of injuries in his playing career. He’s prepared to suck it up and confident he has enough left in the tank to carry the ball a few more times.
“I’m talking about real football,” Campbell said. “Full contact in pads. Until you’re digging grass and mud out of your face mask, it’s not football.”
At MTSU (1988-1991) Campbell became the Blue Raiders all-time leader in rushing yards (3,823) and touchdowns (45), was a two-time Division I-AA All-American and the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year.
Campbell is on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.
“I really miss playing; I’m depressed,” Campbell said. “I went to watch Stratford play and coach (Maurice) Fitzgerald let a bunch of us former players walk out with the guys for their jamboree and I got goose bumps. I was thinking, ‘I’d love to get back out there and play, but I can’t get back out there with those kids. But I could get back out there with guys my age.'”
Campbell wondered if others missed playing as much as he did.
“If you played basketball in high school or college, you can still play in these 40-and-over leagues,” he said. “If you played baseball, there’s still fast-pitch baseball and softball leagues. For football, when they cut the lights out on your last game, you’re done. You’re left with all that anxiety and energy and endorphins you’re used to releasing and you go crazy.”
Campbell floated the idea about a 40-over league on his Facebook page and was overwhelmed by the positive replies.
“A lot of people surprised me saying, ‘I’ll play; sign me up,'” he said. “It really got me excited and I started thinking, ‘With the right sponsorship and some special rules we could make a go at it.'”
Some of the special rules, considering the likely physical condition of most of the players, Campbell said, might include playing only five-minute quarters, no kickoffs, limited blitzes and some other precautions.
“It can’t be much over five-minute quarters and I’m open to other suggestions about other possible rules,” he said.
Campbell has remained extremely well-connected in the local community since his playing days and already has received permission from several local high school officials who have said he could use their fields. He is in the process of reaching out to potential sponsors who would help absorb some of the league’s costs.
“It’s such a unique idea that I am getting positive responses from most of the people I’m talking to,” Campbell said. “We didn’t want to rush it and try to play this fall. We’re going to do it right and try to have everything in place for the spring.”
Anyone interested should contact Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vanderbilt picked fifth in the SEC by Athlon
Athlon Sports College Basketball magazine picked Vanderbilt to finish fifth in the SEC in 2016-17.
“Dores lost two first-round draft picks, but new coach Bryce Drew still has plenty of talent,” according to the magazine.
Commodores senior forward Luke Kornet made the All-SEC second team.
Tennessee, which finished 12th in 2015-16, is picked 13th.
The magazine predicted Kentucky would win the SEC and finish second in the Top 25.
Belmont is predicted to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.
Ex-Belmont star’s brother shining on Auburn football team
Former Belmont basketball star Kerron Johnson’s younger brother Kerryon is a standout running back at Auburn who rushed for 94 yards and a TD in the opener against Clemson.
Kerron, a point guard, is playing basketball professionally in Poland. He signed this week with MKS Dabrowa Gornicza. He played last season in Germany and spent time before that playing in France and New Zealand.
Vanderbilt football TV ratings sag
Vanderbilt’s season-opening football game against South Carolina on Sept. 1 was only the seventh most-watched television sports event in the Nashville market for the week of Aug. 29-Sept. 4.
The game played at Vanderbilt Stadium, broadcast on ESPN and won by South Carolina 13-10 earned a 5.7 rating, meaning 56,441 Nashville households tuned in.
Five other college games — Alabama-Southern Cal, Tennessee-Appalachian State, Notre Dame-Texas, LSU-Wisconsin and Oklahoma-Houston — along with the Titans final preseason game earned higher local ratings.
Wiel leads league in RBIs
Former Blackman and Vanderbilt baseball standout Zander Wiel, now with Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels, finished the season with 86 RBIs, which led he Midwest League.
He also had 19 home runs, which was second in the league.
Wiel was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 12th round (350th overall) of the 2015 Major League Draft.
Pepper could be salty for Lipscomb
Lipscomb’s Eli Pepper is listed among the “Non-Power Five (conference) Forwards Who Will Be Household Names in 2016-17,” by College Court Report.
Pepper is a 6-foot-9, sophomore from Princeton, Ky., who started every game as a freshman and averaged 7.9 points while leading the Bisons in rebounds (7.8) and blocked shots (29).
“While Pepper’s stat line won’t jump off the page and catch your eye right away, he has the potential to become a double-double threat each time he steps on the floor,” according to the web site.
East High reunion set for Oct. 1
The 2016 East Nashville High All-Alumni Reunion is Oct. 1.
The reunion will include several athletic-related events and be at the school.
A slideshow featuring some of East’s all-time greatest athletes will be shown at 9:30 a.m.
Former East basketball standout Bill Boner, who served as Nashville’s mayor (1987-1991), will make a presentation during the assembly program, which begins at 10:30 a.m.
The 1959-60 state champion track team will be honored during the assembly.
For more information visit eastalums.com or contact Marilyn Gollnitz Kooch at 615-227-3855 or mkooch@bellsouth,net.
Tennessee Tech’s Murphy signs with Orlando Magic
Tennessee Tech’s second all-time leading scorer Kevin Murphy signed a free agent contract Thursday with the Orlando Magic.
Murphy, 26, a 6-foot-7 guard from Atlanta, scored 2,019 career points at Tech (2008-12). .
He was drafted in 2012 by Utah and spent a full season with the Jazz and the team’s D-League affiliate in Reno.
Since then he’s played professionally in France, China and Japan.
Former players welcomed back
Two area high schools — Glencliff and Antioch — are welcoming back all former football players next week.
Glencliff has invited its alumni players to eat dinner with the current players on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria.
Antioch will introduce its former players at halftime of the Bears home game Friday against Overton.
Brothers and Johnson inducted into golf hall of fame
Mack Brothers Jr., E.E. “Bubber” Johnson, Roy Moore and Marguerite Solomon were inducted posthumously Thursday into the Tennessee Golf Foundation Hall of Fame at a ceremony at Golf House Tennessee.
Brothers won the 1944 State Amateur, two State Senior Amateur titles and the 1969 Southern Senior Amateur. He also was ranked by Golf Digest in the top five U.S. Senior amateur players and won the Belle Meade Country Club championship 10 times.
Johnson built several Middle Tennessee-area golf courses, served as a national vice president of the PGA and was president of the Southern Section of the PGA in 1961-62.
Maraniss selected for Vanderbilt Hall of Fame
Former Vanderbilt sports information director Andrew Maraniss, who writes a weekly column for The Tennessean, has been selected for induction into the Vanderbilt Student Media Hall of Fame.
The 1992 Vanderbilt graduate is now a best-selling author who wrote “Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South.”
Wallace, a former Pearl High and Vanderbilt basketball player, was the first African-American to play in the SEC.
Two Rivers gets new greens
Two Rivers Golf Course reopened with new greens on Friday after being closed through the summer.
Metro superintendent of golf course maintenance Phil Luckett oversaw the project with assistance from greens keeper Brennan Merritt and his crew.
If you have an item for Midstate Chatter contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 and on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
SPORTS ON NASHVILLE TV
The top 5 local sporting events television ratings for Aug. 29-Sept 4.
1. College football: Alabama-USC 14.3 rating
2. College football: Tennessee-Appalachian St. 11.4
2. NFL preseason: Titans-Dolphins 11.4
4. College football: Notre Dame-Texas 10.4
5. College football: LSU-Wisconsin 10.1
Each rating point is equal to 9,902 Nashville homes.
Source: Mark Binda, WTVF-5 program & research director