Former Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell embracing preparation for NFL Draft

After taking part in position drills during his pro day on Monday, Campbell detailed his preparation for the draft and his mentality surrounding the hype and scrutiny he receives as one of the top linebackers in this year’s class.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell walks off the field after the 2022 TransPerfect Music City Bowl between Iowa and Kentucky at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 21-0.

Matt McGowan, Sports Reporter

Former Iowa football player Jack Campbell doesn’t take any conversation for granted. Whether he’s talking to pro football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, Boston College and Carolina Panthers legend Luke Kuechly, or simply with members of the media, the Hawkeye linebacker is always striving to take away a lesson from the interaction.

Campbell talked with Butkus on Dec. 8, 2022, when the Hawkeye was awarded the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker. This winter, the 6-foot-5 249-pounder trained with Kuechly in preparation for the NFL Combine in February. These meetings are just memories along the way for Campbell as he makes his way into the NFL Draft this April.

“I feel like if you don’t learn from every single person you come in contact within the world, then you’re just wasting time,” Campbell said during a media availability session after Iowa’s pro day on Tuesday. “Just all [of Butkus and Kuechly’s] knowledge, it’s just a major headpin. Mr. Butkus, how he played the game, is just unbelievable … With meeting Luke and other current guys too, hearing how different [the NFL] is. Each team is just so different in what they run; each coordinator likes what they like.”

Leading up to the draft, Campbell has had interviews with several teams. In this process, he said teams asked him things like how many sports he played in high school, his family, how he grew up, and why he chose to go to Iowa.

The former football, basketball, and track standout at Cedar Falls High School said talking about his background has been an adjustment.

“We come from this program where it’s all team, team, team … But like now in these individual meetings, like, they’re asking you about you, and you got to be able to talk about yourself. Sometimes it’s kind of hard,” Campbell said.

Often in these meetings, the quarterback of Iowa’s defense for the past few seasons is shown the film of plays during his college career.

These cutups include both his highlights, such as his 5.5 tackles for loss in 2022; as well as his mistakes, like when he was juked out by Michigan tailback Blake Corum on a touchdown run in the Wolverines’ win over the Hawkeyes in October.

“I’ve just got to learn from it,” Campbell said of when teams show him bad plays. “I’m the first one to raise my hand and say, ‘I messed up, and that’s a bad play.’ …  They’re just trying to show you stuff you fell short on and just see how you respond. For me, it’s always been a level head. Like, even if I make a great play, I don’t really care.”

NFL analyst Lance Zierlein describes Campbell as “built for the box and plays with good overall physicality … but lacks the short area burst and reactive athleticism teams typically look for.”

While Campbell said he doesn’t read what people say about him, he presumes it would be similar to Zierlein’s analysis.

“I’d assume, probably a ‘solid tackler but really unathletic,’” Campbell said. “People can say all they want about me … I’ve always had [criticism], so it doesn’t bother me, I’m used to it. I’m always going to have a chip on my shoulder — it’s how I was raised.”

Reflecting on his journey from a three-star recruit out of high school to a potential second-round draft pick in the NFL, Campbell has learned not just to block out the outside noise, but to be authentic with everyone he interacts with, from NFL owners to custodians.

“I would say the best thing I’ve learned from this process is to be you, be yourself — don’t change,” Campbell said. “Again, like if I’m talking to a head coach, GM, or owner – I’m treating them the same way I’m treating our janitor here, Doug. I’m treating all of them the same. That’s who I am and what I’ll continue to do.”