Wake Forest wide receiver Michael Campanaro seems to be one of the least talked about players in this upcoming draft. Perhaps because of a shoulder injury that ended his season or the fact that the Demon Deacons did not win a ton of games or maybe it is because people know what to expect from him and therefore do not feel the need to talk about him. Nevertheless, Campanaro leaves Wake Forest as the all-time leader in receptions for a career.
Campanaro discusses his career at Wake Forest, gives some insight into what goes into his route running and what enables him to be able to tough the ball so many times, and what he can offer in the NFL. He discusses the similarities to other slot receivers built the same way he is and what makes him similar and different from the others.
Peter Smith: Who told Wake Forest to give you two extra inches?
Michael Campanaro: (Laughs) That would probably be myself.
PS: So you told them to give you 5’11”?
MC: Well, our team mom, Miss Bonnie, she kinda handles our team roster, height and weight, and I found that out sophomore year I think. One of the older guys told me, so I remember, I shot her a text and I was like, hey Miss Bonnie, can you put me in at 5’11”? And she just laughed and said yea, she’ll take care of it.
PS: With the style you play, does it almost help you to be 5’9” as opposed to 5’11”?
MC: Oh, definitely. Definitely. I think talking with teams and GMs, it’s always a question that is brought up about my size and I always tell them, I wouldn’t be the same player I am if I wasn’t 5’9” 190. I think that helps my game. That’s what makes my game different than others.
PS: What pick do you think the (New England) Patriots are picking you?
MC: (Laughs) Um I don’t know. I have had a lot of interest from a ton of teams, so I don’t know if they’re gonna be picking me. I think they’re already set. I think they have (Danny) Amendola and (Julian) Edelman, so I think they’re set at that spot.
PS: That has to be the team that people talking to you automatically assume you’re gonna end up on though, right?
MC: Yea. Yea, I think so, but I think over the years because of what those guys have done and guys like Wes Welker, I think the slot position has definitely evolved and I think more teams are looking for guys that can play the slot and work the middle like those guys, so I think that’s helping me out, coming into the league at the right time.
PS: I think the thing people don’t realize is that with guys like Welker, Amendola and I imagine you as well is that relative to their size, they are incredibly strong, holding various school records and weight room marks.
MC: Oh yea. I got a chance to see Wes Welker work out a few years ago and he’s definitely a very hard worker. He goes all out in every drill and everything we were doing, so I could imagine what kind of numbers those guys are putting up.
PS: How do you go from Baltimore to Winston-Salem and Wake Forest?
MC: I had a good high school career and checking out schools, Wake was a top 25 school at the time when I was looking at schools. I really liked their offense and how they used a guy like Kenny Moore and I saw myself fitting into their offense, the way they used him. I just had a great relationship with Coach (Jim) Grobe as well, so I thought it was just a good fit for me.
PS: You got to play your last season there with him, but how tough is it to see Coach Grobe go after deciding to retire?
MC: It was definitely tough. I know I’m just thankful I got all five years with him, but I know guys that are still in the program, it’s tough to see him go, because he’s been the face of our program and he built Wake from the ground up. And he is just a great guy; you just have so much respect for him and you learn from him not just on the field but off. So, it’s definitely tough to see him go. I’m sure Coach (Dave) Clawson and his new staff; they’re gonna try and get things rolling.
PS: The way they used you in the offense, did it almost like a running back? It wasn’t carries but it was pretty close in some games with catches and touches in general.
MC: Yea, definitely. We did a lot of bubble screens and getting the ball out wide, so those are basically just outside run plays. Tanner (Price), my quarterback, found me a lot throughout the season and when we were playing in games, so I was always up for it. I knew I had to put in the work in the offseason just to be able to carry the load some games, just knowing how many times I was going to touch the ball. I embraced it every week. They were looking to design new ways to get the ball in my hands, so I was excited. Anytime you hear things like that, you get excited.
PS: In some respects, you were the offense.
MC: When you look statistics, I had a big chunk, but our offense actually kind of struggled. It was just tough; we had a lot of injuries, we were kind of young. The other receivers besides me were both freshmen, so it was just tough getting guys to grow up fast and putting guys in different places because of injuries. When you’re called on to carry the load, you just gotta do it. I was excited to touch the ball that many times.
PS: What’s feeling after a game like Louisiana-Monroe where you catch 16 passes for 177 yards, but then you lose?
MC: Yea, that was a tough one. I didn’t even know how many catches I had. You just go out there and play drive by drive to put points on the board, but it’s tough because I actually had a crucial drop in that game that could have helped us out, put it in to overtime. That game especially was tough, but it’s always about winning. Stats don’t mean anything unless you get the win. I’m the type of guy, you know, one or touch catches and we win the game, I’d still be happy. So, whenever you lose the game, stats go out the window. It’s tough that you lost.
PS: Yea, but if you go into your career next year and you go into a game and get two passes, aren’t you almost going to be bored with how many touches you’ve had at Wake?
MC: I mean, a little bit. I kind of felt that way at the Senior Bowl. I was running around and I felt like I was open a lot of the time, but just wasn’t getting the ball. I knew back at my college, I would have been the number look every time. All you can do is just do your job and when the ball comes your way, you gotta be ready to make a play.
PS: Speaking of the Senior Bowl, what was that experience like?
MC: It was great. It reminded me a lot of when I went and played at the Under Armour Game in high school. The top guys across the country, where you come in for a week and you’re just competing against the best and you’re trying to pick up on a new playbook and in a few days, so it’s a lot of fun just working with great coaches and playing with some of the best players across the country, so I had a lot of fun with it.
PS: Going from a situation where you are the guy to going to a situation where you aren’t getting as many looks, having to fight to look more open, do you come out feeling like you truly belong or is there a certain level of frustration where it’s like, man, I’m there, but I’m not getting my opportunities.
MC: I felt like when I came away from the Senior Bowl, I felt like I completely belonged. I think when the coaches go back and watch that practice tape and the game tape, I think they’ll see me creating a lot of separation and just winning on a lot of my routes throughout the week and the game. It’s tough in an All-Star game to get the offense clicking because you only get a week to learn everything , but I definitely felt like I matched up against the competition great.
PS: You had the shoulder injury. How good did it feel to go and participate in the Senior Bowl, but also how good did it feel just to be healthy?
MC: It felt great. I didn’t get to do too much before the Senior Bowl, so I was a little nervous about how the shoulder was going to feel and if I had my legs under me, but I ended up having a good week. The shoulder felt great, so that mentally really got me past the injury. It was just fun getting out there and running around and getting to catch footballs.