On June 5, the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame named 82 members to its 2018-19 Team of Distinction.
The NFF is legit, too. The organization’s chairman is Archie Manning. Yes, that Archie Manning, the father of Peyton and Eli.
So when Allentown High School senior Nick Campbell learned that he had been named to the team, he was pumped. A national football organization led by a Manning was recognizing him as one of the top “scholar-athletes” in the country, a distinction that included “academic achievement, athletic accolades and community involvement,” according to an NFF press release.
But Campbell described it better.
“They recognized me for having great qualities as a person,” he said. “It was very humbling.”
“Nick is a great athlete who works hard at academics. He’s also a truly selfless person,” revealed Pam Campbell, Nick’s mother. “To see him get recognized for both was awesome for me and my husband (Robert Campbell).”
Nick Campbell was a four-year varsity player, two-way standout, at linebacker and fullback, and senior captain for the Allentown football team. In 2018, he led the Redbirds in tackles with 74 and in forced fumbles with three. In 2016, he helped Allentown win the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional playoff championship with a 41-6 victory over Brick Township High School.
Those exploits were necessary for Campbell’s selection to the NFF’s Team of Distinction. So was his 4.13 grade point average and National Honor Society membership.
But 3,500 scholar-athletes across the country were nominated for this team. Campbell’s community service was what set him apart from the crowded field.
In the summer of 2017, Campbell traveled to Maine with a mission group from the Allentown Presbyterian Church.
The Campbells don’t even belong to the Presbyterian Church. They are members at St. John’s Church, also in Allentown. But Campbell believed in this mission.
It was to “put roofs on the houses of underprivileged people,” Pam Campbell said.
For a week that July, Nick Campbell worked all day with the group, repairing and building multiple roofs. But it was what Campbell did at the end of one day that really stuck out to his fellow missionaries.
The group was relaxing on a Maine beach after a long work day. Then Campbell spotted a kid flailing in the ocean water. He couldn’t swim, so Campbell ran out, dove in and carried the kid back to the beach.
“Parents were calling me and saying, ‘You have to hear about what Nick just did,'” Pam Campbell said.
At Thanksgiving dinner that year, the Campbells were going around the table and discussing the highlights of their year. Pam expected Nick to say Allentown’s state sectional football championship. That’s what any high schooler would say, after all.
He said the mission trip to Maine.
“He’s just an all around good kid,” she said. “It’s nice to see him get recognized this way.”
Campbell will graduate from Allentown on June 22. Then on June 27, he will leave for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
The senior got into the Naval Academy because of all the same qualities that earned him the scholar-athlete distinction. Congressman Chris Smith, who represents New Jersey’s fourth congressional district, which covers Allentown, nominated Campbell for the academy after a questioning and vetting process.
Campbell wanted to join the Navy because his grandfather and father served in the U.S. Military.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I know I’m taking a step toward bettering myself.”
“As a mom I’m always going to be a little scared,” Pam Campbell added. “But he’s so excited and he has the constitution to serve.”