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Georgia photo by Chamberlain Smith / Georgia junior cornerback Tyson Campbell goes through an indoor practice late last month in Athens.

The nation's top two cornerbacks in the 2018 college football signing class were teammates Patrick Surtain II and Tyson Campbell of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida.

Surtain signed with Alabama, while Campbell selected Georgia, and the two five-star standouts combined to make 23 starts as freshmen. Their paths then began to split, as Surtain continued his rise to stardom and was recently pegged by ESPN analyst Todd McShay as the second overall selection in the 2021 NFL draft behind Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Campbell, however, played in just nine of 14 games last season with only three starts.

"Everything happens for a reason, and I've grown from it," Campbell said Monday night on a Zoom call. "I think it's helped me become a better person and a better player. I think I've matured so much as a player. I came in here young and not really knowing the defense, but the coaches have developed us, and through experience in games, I've developed mentally.

"I've also become stronger, faster and the whole 9 yards."

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Campbell started 11 of 14 games as a freshman and racked up 45 tackles, including a team-high 11 during the 36-16 loss at LSU. In that season's 43-29 win at Missouri, he forced a fumble that he scooped up and returned 64 yards for a touchdown.

His five absences last season were the result of turf toe, but he did notch his second career score by recovering a fumbled punt in the 52-7 win at Georgia Tech. When asked Monday about the nagging injury, Campbell said, "I'm pain-free, and I'm excited about the season coming up."

DJ Daniel and Eric Stokes were the starting cornerbacks when Georgia ended last season with a 26-14 downing of Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. Campbell is vying with Daniel and Stokes to get back in the starting lineup, but younger talents such as four-star freshman Jalen Kimber are as well.

Though his first two seasons have contained multiple high and low moments, Campbell hasn't gone about comparing his experiences in Athens to the lofty status that accompanied his arrival.

"There is no pressure unless you put pressure on yourself for self-motivation," he said. "Other than that, the coaches on this coaching staff are going to make sure you get ready for anything, and your teammates are going to encourage you. It's not really pressure unless you put it on yourself."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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