Philly’s Ibraheim Campbell Is a Real-Deal NFL Prospect at Safety
It looked like Northwestern was going to lose. Notre Dame led the Wildcats by two scores with just over four minutes to play. But the Fighting Irish had picked up two first downs and looked poised to run out the clock. Then Ibraheim Campbell stepped in.
Or, rather, laid into Notre Dame senior Cam McDaniel, forcing a fumble the Wildcats recovered. It was a devastating turnaround. “The amount of self-hatred I had after the game,” McDaniel — who had fumbled just once in his career previously — said later. “It wrecked me, it really did.” Northwestern drove down the field for a tying field goal, and upset the Fighting Irish on another field goal in OT.
Campbell forced two fumbles in that contest, Northwestern’s first game against ND since a famous upset in 1995. Now, the Wildcats have a winning streak against the Fighting Irish — their first since 1962. “It’s the reason that you play college football, to go into those environments, to get those opportunities,” Campbell said via phone earlier this week. “Those College GameDay moments.”
The Germantown native is hoping to move to a bigger stage soon: Campbell is a top safety prospect in this year’s NFL Draft. At the NFL combine, he has a chance to help (or hurt) his draft prospects with a good performance.
But he is already a good prospect. NFLDraftScout.com says he could go in the third or fourth round of the draft, which begins April 30th. (Other sites have him as a fifth-rounder.) Campbell was recently rated the fifth-best safety in the draft by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock — who raved about him at the Senior Bowl.
He picked off a pass in practice there, and is known as a hard-hitter and a ballhawk — both at going for interceptions and forcing fumbles. On the downside, he’s had a rep for missed tackles (due to going for those big hits). Scouts aren’t sure how well he can cover 1-on-1. He played both free and strong safety in college — Northwestern safeties line up on the same side — and is thought to have the right mindset and body to play special teams as he gets up to speed in the NFL.
Campbell grew up in Germantown before his family moved to Cheltenham, though he says members of his extended family still live in Germantown. He played for the Mt. Airy Bantams football team growing up and the Philly Fab Five AAU basketball team. “My mom wouldn’t let us play until we got a little older,” Campbell said. “I started playing football when I was 10.” He says the competitive nature of his family pushed him and his brothers to keep working at football.
And work they did. Three of Campbell’s brothers all played competitive football in college: Rashad Campbell (Cornell), Aquil Stinson (Georgetown) and Malik Jones (Bloomsburg). His brother Rashad, also a Chestnut Hill Academy graduate, was a three-time All-Ivy pick. He says Rashad’s experience in Ithaca pushed him to attend a quality academic school — though he wanted the higher level of competition Division I FBS provided.
Growing up, though, Campbell wasn’t a huge Eagles fan — he just liked watching football. When he got to Northwestern, he became a bigger Birds fan simply because he wanted to rep Philadelphia. He said he always enjoyed the “passion that Brian Dawkins played with,” as well as the games of Sean Taylor, Ed Reed and Earl Thomas. Not bad guys to model your game after.
Coming into college, Campbell said he thought he had a future in professional football. After redshirting his first season, he put together a solid five years. He finished tied for third in Northwestern history with 11 career interceptions and fifth with 24 pass breakups. He recorded 316 tackles in his four years there. In his senior year, he missed four games with an injury but still finished tied for the Big Ten lead in forced fumbles. (He’s healthy now.) He was four-time all-academic Big Ten.
He’s scheduled to work out at the combine, a showcase for top NFL prospects, early next week. He says he’s relishing the opportunity. “I take every opportunity to work out and just improve my game,” he said. “These opportunities are ones some of my brothers, a lot of my friends, would love to have, and I intend to take advantage of them.”
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