WATERLOO — Over his five years at Wilfrid Laurier University, Dillon Campbell has seen his share of books.
And when he graduates, his name will be inscribed in one that will stay behind.
Campbell’s record-setting performance as a running back for the Golden Hawks continued in this, his fifth year with the program, when he established a all-time career rushing yards mark. His 241 yards in an Oct. 3 game against Waterloo gave him 3,069 for his career, eclipsing the record of 3,061 by Andy Cecchini.
“Actually, it’s funny,” says Campbell, whose three touchdowns on the day helped Laurier to a 42-0 win. “I wasn’t even thinking about it at all, even coming back here for my fifth year.
“I didn’t even really find out about it until halfway through the game that I was on track for breaking the record.”
Campbell added to that total over Thanksgiving weekend, rushing for 246 yards on 37 carries in a 65-30 victory over the Ottawa Gee Gees. His 37 carries set a single-game record for Laurier while upping his career rushing yards total to 3,315.
The Whitby resident, who grew up in Pickering and graduated from St. Mary Catholic Secondary School, has had a stellar career at Laurier. The 23 year old is coming off a season in which he was named the OUA MVP, an OUA first team all-star and CIS first team all-Canadian. The most telling award was one he didn’t win, named a finalist for the Hec Creighton Trophy as the country’s most valuable player.
He finished the year rushing for 1,458 yards, the sixth highest total in a single season in Canadian university history. The rushing yards, as well as his 185 carries, were school records at Laurier. Campbell also made 12 catches for 206 yards, giving him 1,664 all-purpose yards, representing 46 per cent of Laurier’s total offence on the season. All of the yardage contributed to 13 touchdowns.
His stats, work ethic and potential led to being selected by the Toronto Argonauts in the fifth round of the CFL draft.
“It was exciting to get the opportunity first of all to get drafted,” says Campbell, who played with the Ajax-Pickering Dolphins growing up. “There was huge excitement there. Also being drafted by a team so close to home that I had the opportunity to play in front of my family and friends.”
But his first pro training camp didn’t play out the way he would have preferred. He was released, and decided to return to Laurier for a fifth and final year of eligibility.
“I think I buckled under the pressure,” he reasons. “I definitely didn’t feel I had a good camp at all, but it was definitely a good learning experience.
“Now that I’ve got that out of the way, hopefully I’ll get back to camp next season. It was interesting to see how the pros carry themselves at that level.”
Preparation, strength and speed were three areas that he rhymed off as being vastly different than what he is used to at the university level, where young players just out of high school often face players four or five years older in some cases.
Now as his career starts to wind down, he can reflect at the time that has passed, and marvels how quickly it went.
“Time did fly by,” he admits. “I’ve made some lifelong friends here. Coming in and meeting guys with the same mindset and same goals, it’s hard not to build those bonds.
“I definitely think I made the right decision coming to Laurier. I’ve loved every moment of it. Once the season is over, hopefully I can get to the next level.”
Campbell has every intention of cracking a pro roster next season. If for some reason that doesn’t pan out, he envisions using his degree and becoming a personal trainer in injury rehab or help people achieve their fitness goals.