Colts: Parris Campbell is finally healthy and ready to write his story – IndyStar


INDIANAPOLIS – Parris Campbell can hear you.
He sees your tweets; it’s hard not to when they fill his mentions after he tweets out a video from his Ohio State days, or ancient history in the eyes of fans. That came before his injuries with the Colts, back when life felt bright and people weren’t trying to bring him down.
“Every athlete sees everything negative about them. If some people say, ‘I don’t see it,’ or ‘I don’t pay attention to it,’ you see it,” Campbell said.
“From the outside looking in, people say, ‘Oh, he can’t stay healthy.’ Excuse my language, but to hell with that. I know who I am at the end of the day, I know what type of player I am. I know why I was drafted here.”
Campbell’s words might come off as bitter, but he speaks them with a grin. The mood is light. As he sits here, currently 100% healthy, he’s grateful for the narrative.
He’s been in some dark times and needed the motivation. 
“Shoot, I think that just everything that I’ve been through has kind of built my mental state,” Campbell said. “Like, obviously rookie year, it was what it was. I had three different surgeries, and then Year Two, torn MCL, PCL, like going through that knee injury, that was probably the toughest thing I’ve been through in my life.”
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“Just being able to bounce back from that and be back where I am today like healthy, that did a lot for me mentally because shoot, that was definitely one of the darkest times in my life.”
Campbell has been injured so much as a pro, after rarely experiencing it growing up, that each new setback has become a step rather than a catastrophe. It’s another chapter in the story he wants to write.
This spring in the Colts facility, he sees the pages all around him.
First came Reggie Wayne as receivers coach. Wayne was the superstar Colts receiver back when Campbell was growing up. He was nearly the exact same size, drafted one round earlier, and if it can seem like polar opposite careers, Wayne wants you to know he didn’t break out until his third season at age 25. Campbell is 25 now.
Then came Matt Ryan at quarterback. He was another one of the NFL’s stars during Campbell’s rise, winning MVP when Campbell was a redshirt sophomore at Ohio State. Ryan is 37 now, but he has a career of helping young receivers to their ceilings, from Roddy White to Julio Jones to Calvin Ridley to Kyle Pitts.
“Julio Jones came in in my fourth year in Atlanta, and the first day you go on the field with him, you say, ‘OK, he can run the entire route tree.’ Well, he can, but he doesn’t need to,” Ryan said.
I’ve always believed you’ve gotta get your own eyes on them. What they were asked to do somewhere else, be it in college or professionally, might fit or not fit with what we’re trying to do.”
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Then came the NFL Draft, where the Colts took a wide receiver again in the second round in Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce and then didn’t take another the rest of the draft. Colts coaches and scouts spoke of Pierce as a classic ‘Z’ receiver, built to win along the sidelines and, along with Michael Pittman Jr., clear space in the middle of the field.
The slot role has remained wide open, and it happens to fit a 6-foot player with elite speed and change of direction. That’s what Campbell was coming out of Ohio State.
Of course, it’s all about the if — if he can stay healthy. He’s lasted 15 games in three seasons. He has 360 career receiving yards. That’s why the people chirp at him and are so quick to write him off.
But when Campbell talks about the type of player he is, he’s going back further than they are. He was the star at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, or LeBron James’ alma mater in Akron, Ohio, where as a senior he totaled 1,500 rushing yards.
He took time at Ohio State but broke out as a redshirt senior in 2018, posting 1,083 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. On 99 touches, he became Ohio State’s first 1,000-yard receiver in 16 years by living in the teeth of Big Ten defenses.
That high-volume, durable style is how he got here, as the 59th pick in the 2018 draft. To Colts fans, it’s ancient history, from back when Andrew Luck played football.
All it gives him in 2022 is the opportunity to prove something again. But that’s all he wanted, for a team and his own body to give him a chance.
For a moment, he has both of those. He also remembers what it’s like to lose them. And he knows the chances don’t come forever.
The fire burns a little brighter at the end of the match. 
“What better way to prove everybody wrong and prove myself right than in year four, in my contract year?” he said.
“I’m ready for it. I’m locked in.”
Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at natkins@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.

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