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The Rise of Bryce Campbell

National Teams

The Rise of Bryce Campbell

You could call it a meteoric rise, but like a lot of meteoric rises, it took a long time and a lot of effort.

Indiana University center and captain Bryce Campbell has been the #1 player on one of the best college teams in the country, and Friday he starts for the USA against the Maori All Blacks just a short drive from his home town. The Royal Irish HS product out of Indianapolis was on Goff Rugby Report’s radar last year for sure, but, as Campbell tells it, he still needed a little help getting to the next level.

“Some people stuck their necks out for me,” Campbell told Goff Rugby Report. “Some people advocated for me and got me onto that All American tour of Australia. I think that was big.”

Campbell, of course, had to perform, which he did. Coaches saw that he is a physical presence at midfield and a smart player who works hard, can pass, and can tackle.

Next came a callup to the USA Selects, where Campbell impressed many when he almost created a try out of nothing - chasing down a kick that was fielded in-goal by a Fijian player and diving to knock the ball loose. The play was ruled a knock-on, so no try, but it was all hustle from the Hoosier player.

“I got the line break and got it to Mikey [Te’o} and he got us close to the goal line,” said Campbell. “I just kept running. I thought I could force a 22 dropout, and then I thought I could do something more.”

People noticed, and of course many noticed his fend-off against Canada that set up a break and a try, and left the would-be tackler prone and not moving. That play made ESPN and turned the unassuming Campbell into something of an internet sensation. But what was just as important for Campbell was that he, personally, and the team as a whole, rebounded from a not-great first half to win that game.

“As a group we needed to get used to the pace of the game, and I think that was the biggest thing we got out of it,” Campbell said. “And then, no matter what happened, we kept fighting. If we were 30 points down, we never gave up. For me, if something doesn’t go right, I just forget about it. Dwelling on it doesn’t help any. I just start thinking about how I can help other players. Overall, we were a really young team, and the other teams came at us hard. We learned a lot.”

And the USA coaches learned a lot. Campbell went to the USA 7s team camp, and then to the 15s camp. Along the way, he was taking classes remotely, doing his assignments, and talking with a supportive group of professors helping him finish his course work in his marketing degree. And now he’s with the Eagles and starting on Friday.

“It’s been a real crazy ride,” said the center. “It’s been intense. It’s been really cool to train with guys who have played all over the world. Without the help of those guys and the coaches I don’t think I would have been able to operate at this level.”

Campbell spoke with his high school coach, Scott Peterson, who was an All American at Purdue and played a several high-level teams. He told Campbell to forget about the distractions and stay in the moment. He also told Campbell to put it all out there, but you get the feeling he was going to do that anyway. Teammates and family and friends will flood into Toyota Park to cheer on their favorite son. And you know he won’t disappoint.