Talks with Hawks: Episode 19 – Dillon Campbell

In 2011, the top 3 rushers at WLU combined for less than 800 yards during the entire season.  In 2012, the top rusher for Laurier was QB Travis Eman with 228 yards.  Including him, the top 4 rushers combined for less than 700 yards during the entire season.  Those two years were Dillon Campbell’s first two years at Laurier.  He didn’t play much as a freshman and he had some injury problems in his 2nd year.  After two seasons, he only had a total of 30 carries for 128 yards.  In 2013, it was Coach Faulds’ first season at Laurier.  In the next three regular seasons, Campbell ran for 867, 1458 and 1115 yards to become the leading rusher in Laurier history.  Just recently, Campbell was announced as a 2020 Laurier Athletics Hall of Fame inductee in his first year of eligibility.  In fact, the day the announcement was made public, I just so happened to be scheduled to interview him. 

DAVE MORRISSEY: Tell me why you decided to come to Laurier.

DILLON CAMPBELL:  Well, it really came down to the vibe and the environment that I experienced when I visited the campus for my recruiting visit with Coach Jeffries.  Walking around campus, it quickly felt like a place that I could call home.

(DM): Were you frustrated during your 1st couple of years on the team?

(DC): I felt like I was just paying my dues.  When I came in, I wanted to put in work and learn as much as I could from guys like Anton Bennett.  In my 2nd year, a knee injury slowed me down a bit.  Coming into my third year, I worked even harder.  I knew the starting tailback role was there for the taking. I was lucky enough to play under two great coaches (Coach Jeffries and Coach Faulds).  Faulds brought in a new energy and the offence started to transition into more of a run-based offence which is ironic given that as a player, Faulds was one of the most successful passers in USports history.    

(DM): In 2013, the team went 1-7 but actually, it was a more competitive team than the previous season when the record was 3-5.  An admitted blown call by the refs robbed us of a win vs Windsor, there was an overtime loss to Queen’s, and most of the losses were tight games, though not as tight as the 2002 team that lost 5 games by a total of 11 points.  What was your mindset that year?

(DC):  Yeah, we used to joke around that we were the best 1-7 team in the country.  There were a lot of ‘nailbiters’ that just didn’t go our way.  I didn’t really know that I was going to be the feature back until the season started. It was frustrating to lose so many games, but as you know, over the next 3 to 4 seasons, the team consistently got better and better every year.

(DM): Right!  In 2014, the team went 4-4 and made the playoffs.  You had a monster season with over 1400 yards and 13 touchdowns.  In a quarterfinal playoff game, you rushed for 134 yards vs Western.  The game was tied 10 to 10 going into the fourth quarter.  Western ended up winning 25 to 10, scoring their only touchdown with under 3 minutes remaining.  In 2015, your final year, the team took another step.  This time, a quarterfinal playoff trip at McMaster resulted in a 29 to 15 victory.  You had 39 carries for 285 yards.  With some of the guys, I am playing a game called ‘How well do you know your own statistics?’  So, my question for you is, how many touchdowns did you score in that game?

(DC): Hmmm, I know for a fact I had one long TD run called back due to a penalty that would have put me over 300 yards.  I think I had 2 touchdowns in that game.

(DM): Well, you had an amazing game.  That’s for sure.  But you did not score any touchdowns!  QB Eric Morelli had a touchdown run and he threw touchdown passes to Anthony Pizzuti and Greg Nyhof.

(DC): (Laughing) Yeah, now I remember, specifically the Nyhof touchdown.  After he caught the ball, he kind of stood over him and just stared him down.  That would make a great poster.

(DM): The week after that, we go to Western for a semifinal playoff game.  You get off to a good start, 6 carries for 73 yards, but then in the 2nd quarter after a long run, you were injured and you never returned to the game, thus ending your university career.  We ended up losing 29 to 15.  What exactly happened to you in that game?

(DC): I was banged up all season going into that game.  I remember my last run vividly.  I was running down the sideline and Malcolm Brown tackled me in a way where my ankle just rolled.  I tried to muscle through it and walk it off, but it was impossible.  It was so tough to just sit there in the cold and watch knowing that there was nothing I could do to help the team.

(DM):  So, it’s 2016, you are gone, and the whole nation thinks that Laurier won’t be able to run the ball.  But what ended up happening? The team actually produced one of the strongest rushing attacks in USports history getting key contributions from Eric Guiltinan, Levondre Gordon, and Osayi Iginuan.  Previously, you were the leader of that running back group.  Did you see that coming?

(DC): I can’t say that I would have predicted it, but their success didn’t surprise me. Those guys were so hard-working and talented.  Actually, I remember Dre, when he was a recruit, doing an interview with his local paper mentioning how he wanted to end up becoming the leading rusher in WLU history.     (Editor’s note:  I remember that interview.  I was there!  In terms of statistics, it’s amazing how close the two RBs’ numbers are.  Dillon Campbell had 547 carries for 3568 carries (6.5 yards per carry) and 24 touchdowns.  Dre Gordon had 534 carries for 3348 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and 25 touchdowns.  Including the playoffs, Campbell had 4064 yards and Gordon had 3747.  Laurier has been quite fortunate to have those two guys back to back).  

(DM) I still remember that big comeback victory over Western in the 2016 Yates Cup vividly.  I remember you being there on the sideline and taking a picture of you with all the RBs after the game.  How did it feel to be on the sideline as a spectator that day?

(DC): I went there to support the boys.  It was exciting to be there.  Certainly, there were mixed emotions though.  Although I was super happy for the guys to win the Yates Cup, I remember being near the celebration stage during the post-game celebration standing with Ben Millar.  He had played his final year in 2015 too.  We played together for 5 years. Part of me inside felt, “Damn, this sucks.  We missed out on this by one year.”  That being sad, I was happy to be there.

(DM): Who was your most memorable teammate at Laurier?

(DC): I would have to say Ronnie Pfeffer.  Him being the kicker, of course in one way he would be automatically ostracized because of his position, but he was a great guy who was a joker and he fit in very well with everybody.  He was a local guy, but there were many times he would just crash at our places.   Once he had a big play, I think it was a long run on a fake punt.  We celebrated on the sideline by me knocking him down and that was caught on tv.

(DM): Let’s talk about your CFL career. You were drafted in the 5th round by the Toronto Argonauts.  Now although you and I both know this, some football fans don’t realize that in the CFL, there are only a limited number of roster spots reserved for Canadian players, and most teams tend to stock up on Canadians at certain positions, such as defensive line, free safety, fullback, etc.  Canadian quarterbacks get zero respect and Canadian running backs quite often don’t get much either.   What was your experience like?

(DC): I went to the Argos training camp and was cut.  Then, like a lot of players, I went back to university and played my fifth year.  So, the next year(2016) I went back to training camp again.  I did better, but there didn’t have enough roster spots for Canadian running backs, so I was cut again.  So, the year after that, I went to training camp in Montreal and got cut.  I had a great camp.  The coaches even told me so.  It just came down to the fact that they were saving RB roster spots for Americans, which is what most teams tend to do.  From there, I spent two months on the practice roster in Saskatchewan and got cut again.  Near the end of the year, Montreal signed me to the roster to replace an injured player.  It was a meaningless game in Hamilton between 2 teams who were going to both miss the playoffs.  I got into the game for about 3 plays in the 4th quarter.  I had 1 carry for 7 yards.

(DM): I know that since your playing career ended, you have spent a considerable amount of time travelling the world.  How did that come about and what have been your favourite destinations?

(DC):  Well, when I was cut by Montreal, I started talking to an old friend of mine.  We were both 26 and had always wanted to travel.  So, we took off for Thailand, and from there we kept meeting many interesting people and visiting more cool places, so the trip just kept on continuing.  I would say the places that I enjoyed the most were Japan (I loved both the historical & cultural aspects as well as the high paced super modern city of Tokyo), Sydney (great city right on a beach), and Da Nang, Vietnam.  I had read about ‘The Golden Bridge’ and I knew I had to go see it.  We spent 3 months in southeast Asia and 13 months in Australia. 

(DM) What are you up to nowadays?

(DC) I am working with CanFitPro.  Just recently, I got my certification to be a personal trainer.  On weekends, I also work as a child and youth worker.  I also do some work in the hospitality industry.

(DM) So, just recently it was announced that you are a 2020 Laurier Hall of Fame inductee.  How do you feel about that?

(DC): I was told about 2 weeks ago and told to keep it quiet for a couple of weeks.  It is definitely exciting.  I remember working in the A.C. during university, going in the Hawk Lounge and seeing pictures of all the athletes in the WLU Hall of Fame and imagining that one day maybe I could be in there too. 

Leave a Reply