The Detroit Lions opted to go patriotic with their second seventh-round pick as they drafted Army safety Caleb Campbell with the 218th overall selection. This pick will make headlines across the country as Campbell is a very unique player to say the least. Thanks to a new Army rule, Campbell actually has a pro career that starts immediately rather than after he completes his active-service commitment, allowing him to join the Lions as soon as possible.
In years past, military athletes had little hope of playing professional football due to their commitment to the service upon graduation. Army recently revised those requirements, leaving the door open for Campbell and other Cadets to pursue their dream of playing in the National Football League.
What Army has done is offer its top athletes a side door to professional sports. West Point has implemented an alternative service option program that allows cadets to turn pro -- and play -- right away. Cadets accepted into the program "will owe two years of active service in the Army, during which time they will be allowed to play their sport in the player-development systems of their respective organizations and be assigned to recruiting stations. If they remain in professional sports following those two years, they will be provided the option of buying out the remaining three years of their active-duty commitment in exchange for six years of reserve time."
Since Campbell's story is so interesting, he spent yesterday being interviewed by ESPN and the NFL Network at Radio City Music Hall. His appearance at the draft alone caused a few "USA" chants to start, and later a few "Caleb Campbell" chants as well. After listening to his interviews and hearing about his story, I actually said in the comments section of Sunday's live blog that I hoped Detroit would draft him. His character is amazing, his work ethic is great, and his leadership can be matched by very few in the draft as he comes from the Army. Basically, if Rod Marinelli could describe his ideal player in a mental sense, Campbell would be the result.
Once the Lions' 218th selection was set to be flashed on the screen, the NFL Network made an interesting move. For the first time since day two even started, they sent their coverage to the podium as this next pick was going to be "very special." Immediately, I knew that the Lions had drafted Caleb Campbell. When his name was announced, the crowd let out a big roar and a "Caleb Campbell" chant erupted soon after. It was a surreal moment and one that a lot of people will never forget.
As far as the impact this pick has on the Lions, Campbell could actually make the team. He is listed as a safety, but as he said in his TV interviews yesterday, he could gain some weight and become an outside linebacker as well. I think linebacker is where the Lions will end up putting him, but his biggest impact likely will come on special teams. Because of that, he will have a great chance at making this team.
For Campbell, the impact of being drafted means for right now he will not have to go on active-service duty. I've heard the jokes that going to Iraq may not be as bad as becoming a Lion, but in all seriousness, you've got to feel good for this kid. I can't imagine how hard it would be to cut him should that eventually happen, so let's just hope he makes the team next season.
Being vastly overshadowed by the Campbell pick was what happened with the 216th overall selection. That was Detroit's own seventh-round pick, and with it they drafted Ohio defensive tackle Landon Cohen. That pick was made for depth purposes only as the Lions will see if Cohen can make the team as a backup defensive tackle.
For round seven of the draft, I obviously am giving the Lions a pat on the back. Aside from adding depth with the Cohen pick, Detroit made everyone's day by selecting Caleb Campbell. It will get played up by some as a PR move, but the fact is, he could help this football team, so that'll be an interesting storyline to watch throughout this offseason.