Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Retired Quarterback and Philanthropist
a caring leader who grows stronger with every setback because he places his destiny in God’s hands
To see Jason Campbell play football, whether back in his Auburn University days, as a starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, or in his new role with the Cincinnati Bengals, you might imagine that sports was the sole focus of his childhood. But in fact, his parents put just as much emphasis on academics as sports for Jason and his siblings. “My father was a high school coach, but he was also the high school principal, and he made us understand that no matter how good you are in sports, you can’t get to where you want to be without good grades. You have to earn a college degree so that you have something to fall back on.”
As a high school freshman, Jason made the same varsity basketball team for which his father was a coach. One day he heard another parent accuse his father of starting him only because Jason was his own son. “I didn’t tell my dad what I overheard, but I took it to heart and made a promise to myself that my dad wouldn’t have to worry what people thought because I was going to outplay and outwork all the other players and prove my worth to the team. I outscored everyone on the team that year, and I was only a freshman. From that point on, no one accused my dad of favoring me.”
The lesson Jason took from the experience was not only about hard work but also about not taking unkind comments to heart. “People will always find a way to discourage you or try to get under your skin,” he said. “You can’t let it get to you. If anything, you have to use their negativity as a motivation.” This was a message that would come in handy many times throughout his pro career, when Jason came to know how important it was not to take criticism from the media to heart. “If you’re having a bad season and you listen to the outside world, it can really get to your head. You have to ignore all that and stay focused.”
Another principle that has guided Jason for as long as he can remember is his faith. The message he absorbed at a young age is that his destiny is ultimately in God’s hands. “Once I understood that God controls my destiny, that’s all I needed to know,” he said.
Hard as he has worked for everything he has earned, Jason was always motivated more by love and devotion to his family and to God than by the wish for athletic glory or the adulation that comes with it. “Being drafted by the NFL was always my goal, but not because I wanted the fame or money: it was because I wanted to be able to buy my mom and dad a new home,” Jason said. “And that was the first thing I did when I got drafted. That was the best goal I’ve ever achieved in my life: the goal of buying my parents a house.”
The team Jason played for at Auburn University was legendary for its tight fraternal bonds. “Our team chaplain, Chette Williams, liked to have us lock arms before every game,” Jason recalled. “The idea was that we were locking ourselves together as one. Then when we went out on the field, that sentiment stayed with us even after the physical structure was broken. Everything we did on the field, we did together. ”
The same chaplain who created emotional intimacy by having the players lock arms fostered a sense of group protectiveness off the field as well. At regularly held meetings, team members could ask the group for support in dealing with their individual problems. “We were a brotherhood, not just a team,” Jason said. “I found out personal details about the guys: who had lost a family member, who had escaped gang life by getting a college scholarship, who had been beaten up or forced to do very difficult things. Sharing at those meetings made us want to help each other. We went into every game thinking we had to win because we were doing it for each other, and we were undefeated that season of 2004.”
Jason seems to have a knack for seeking out the right role models and taking the best lessons they have to offer. From Auburn University, he was drafted by the Washington Redskins, where he developed a deep admiration for Coach Joe Gibbs. “He used to tell us, ‘Guys, I care about you as men. Football will come and go, but what matters is how you live your life and how you treat others. Use your platform for positivity, not negativity.”
While playing for the Redskins, Jason became involved with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and raised a significant amount of money for that organization while also forging personal connections with some of the young patients who were beneficiaries of that cause. Witnessing their battles with illness and cheering them on transformed Jason’s perspective on his own life as well, as he battled several injuries in the years that followed. When his career took him to Oakland, Jason continued seeking out opportunities for public service.“The community outreach opportunities are the best thing about playing in the pros: golf tournaments, kids’ activities, banquets, speaking engagements,” Jason says.
Another outreach effort that means a lot to Jason is the one-day summer camp program he helps to run back home in Mississippi. “The camp is free. We supply all the resources, the food and drinks, and the coaches and NFL players volunteer their time. The players tell the kids their stories, what they did, how they succeeded. It’s so good for the kids to hear. We give them some form of hope that they will have opportunities that will change their lives.”
These days, Jason is perhaps best known for his resilience in the face of successive injuries, including a dislocated knee and a badly broken collarbone. “Playing the game, there are going to be injuries,” he says philosophically. “You try everything you can to avoid them, but some are unpreventable. Injuries made me stronger and compelled me to get back out there on the field when the time was right. You have to listen to your body and trust your own judgment.”
And ultimately, Jason says, there is a greater lesson to be learned from injuries. “The tough times don’t last, but the tough people do,” he said. “If you have a strong mind and strong will, you’re always going to succeed and come out on top. Life doesn’t always go your way. But you keep going, keep working, and come out even tougher.”
Instant replay of Jason Campbell’s Guiding Principles:
Nothing is worth having if you haven’t earned it. Work tirelessly for what you want.
Put your faith in God, who controls your destiny and will see to it that you have just what you need.
Find excellent role models to learn from and to emulate.
Remember that you yourself are a role model to others, and use your influence over them to improve their outlook.
Be mindful of your blessings. No matter how tough life gets for you, there are ways in which you are far more blessed than other people.
Let setbacks and injuries make you stronger. Use them as a chance to re-evaluate and build strength.
Listen to your body and respect its knowledge of what it can and cannot do. Speak up if you feel that you are being pushed beyond your limits.
Give back to your community. Find ways to reach out to anyone less fortunate than yourself.
Be tirelessly supportive of your friends and teammates. Listen when they share their personal experiences, and use the information to better understand them.
Form friendships and allegiances with people who show a positive attitude. Do not let negativity from other people pervade your own spirit.
The Insightful Player® series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Hall of Fame Master Certified Personal and Business Coach and Author of her newly released book,INSIGHTFUL PLAYER: Football Pros Lead A Bold Movement of Hope. Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr. Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills. The Insightful Player® initiative was created to help make our world a much better place by inspiring youth. To contact Chrissy Carew visit http://www.insightfulplayer.com or call 603-897-0610
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Retired Quarterback Jason Campbell is a valued member of the Insightful Player® team. To be named to this team, one must be a person of integrity, such as a current or former NFL player, who shares their personal message of hope for the sole purpose of lifting the spirits of all, especially children.