Campbell hopes to end Northwestern’s draft drought

By Megan Hart, video by Mariel Turner

It might be a turning point in his life, but Ibraheim Campbell doesn’t want to obsess over it.

Or even witness it.

Instead of attending or even viewing the 2015 NFL Draft, he will enjoy the time with his family in Philadelphia — although he will keep his phone nearby.

The 5-foot-11, 220-pound strong safety is expected to be selected in the middle to late rounds, probably on the final day of the draft, which will take place April 30 to May 2 in Chicago.

He would become the first player from Northwestern to be drafted since 2012, when Drake Dunsmore and Jeremy Ebert went in the seventh round.

“I probably won’t be watching, to be honest, because there’s nothing I can change now,” Campbell said. “But I’ll be waiting for the call.”’s scout ratings grade him at 57 out of 100, equivalent to a fifth-round draft pick. He is ranked the 11th-best safety available and No. 145 overall.’s Lance Zierlein projected him as a seventh-round pick or priority free agent.

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Despite missing part of the Wildcats’ 2014 season with a hamstring injury, Campbell was named second-team All-Big Ten, finishing with 54 tackles, four forced fumbles and three interceptions.

Campbell was the only Northwestern player invited to this year’s NFL Combine. His injury prevented him from participating in some of the combine’s physical tests, which may have hurt his draft stock.

At a time when the NFL has been embroiled in controversies surrounding players’ off-the-field behavior, Campbell seems to be a worry-free choice in that regard. Zierlein wrote that scouts were particularly impressed by Campbell’s leadership and character.

He graduated with a degree in economics in December. Since then, he said, he has spent much of his time in the gym, training to compete at the next level.

Campbell said he hopes to emulate the playing styles of Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Earl Thomas.

“They’re all great NFL safeties,” he said. “I love Reed’s playmaker mentality and the way Polamalu plays with reckless abandon.”

Wildcats linebacker Jimmy Hall, in particular, looks forward to seeing what Campbell can do in the NFL. Hall has watched Campbell grow over the last five years — the two met as redshirt freshman and became roommates —  and says Campbell is ready.

“He’s hardworking, smart, and he does the small things it takes for him to be a good football player,” Hall said, referring to Campbell’s workout habits and a healthy diet.

The two teamed up for one of the most memorable plays of Northwestern’s 2014 season.

The Wildcats were down by three points at Notre Dame with less than two minutes to play. The Irish hoped to run out the clock. Running back Cam McDaniel took a handoff, and as he crossed Northwestern’s 33-yard line, Campbell stripped the ball from him, McDaniel’s only turnover of the season. Hall recovered the fumble with 1:28 left. The Wildcats then drove to the game-tying field goal and won in overtime, their biggest upset of the season.

Hall didn’t participate in the combine, but the linebacker has visited a number of teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Bears. He likely will not be drafted, but then would try to catch on with a team as a free agent.

Though Campbell said it would be an honor to end Northwestern’s draft drought, he covets that next step.

“I still realize you have to make a team,” Campbell said. “There’s lots of work to be done when the draft is over and once camp starts.”