Jonathan Campbell at University of North Carolina

Other MLS hopefuls
Brandon Vincent, Stanford LB
Kyle Fisher, Clemson CB
The biggest stars in college soccer are getting their professional careers underway this week, as a group of 60 of the best from the NCAA ranks are set to convene in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for the 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine.

North Carolina senior defender Jonathan Campbell will be in attendance in South Florida, and the projected first-rounder spoke to about life on and off the field as he prepares for the Jan. 14 SuperDraft.

Campbell made some history this year

... when he became the first player in UNC history to be named both a first team All-American and Academic All-American, not that the business administration major knew anything about that:

“I honestly did not even know that, you’re the first one to tell me. That’s obviously something I’m going to hold very dear, because there’s been some great players to come through UNC. Honestly, I’m surprised by that. There’s just been such talent that has come from UNC and gone on to play pro, and there were probably guys that were great at soccer but chose careers in other realms, in business, in medicine, becoming doctors. I feel honored to represent UNC in that way.”

He spent the better part of the last two years playing in a three-man backline

… Campbell spent his junior year playing in a wide role before moving into the middle in 2015:

“We moved to three in the back my junior year, so I’d say even for a center back I’m pretty versatile and able to move across the field well…. I think most of the center backs in this draft are going to be athletic, have a good vertical jump, all that stuff, but I think, for me, the key thing is just good ball decisions and being able to see the field very well. When I pick off a ball, being able to see some options on the flank and just have good ball distribution is, I think, a good aspect for me going into the draft.”

Campbell played with several current MLS players at UNC

… including Houston Dynamo midfielder Rob Lovejoy, a former Tar Heel and fellow Greensboro, North Carolina native, who he’s gotten advice from ahead of the draft:

“He’s said that for UNC, you don’t realize how well prepared you are, mainly in just the mentality aspect. He said that being with [head coach Carlos Somoano] and the UNC staff just really prepares you to be a pro, to grind it out and be ready for the whole season. I think he said from a mentality aspect we’ve got a big advantage.”

Lovejoy has also been schooling Campbell

… on the importance of recovery for incoming rookies:

“The other thing he’s kind of talked about is just trying to do everything you can for recovery off the field. Because you finish a college season and then you’re literally trying to prepare for peak performance for the Combine, while everyone else is, you know, not going to say completely resting, but they’re doing maintenance work, just maintaining a level so they can go into preseason and get fit. For most of us, you literally have to be at peak performance at the Combine. Then you have the start of MLS preseason, and you’re pushing through preseason. And then you get done with that, and if you’re still on a team, that’s when everyone else is starting to get back to a regular level and you just, you just can’t burnout. I mean it happens to almost everyone, but that’s one aspect I really didn’t consider until a couple weeks ago.”

He says he started a dangerous trend at UNC

… when he adopted an Australian Shepherd puppy during his sophomore year:

“I probably started a terrible trend for UNC soccer, but I was the first one of the group to get a dog and then I think after I got one, I think within that semester about five of us had one. it was like, ‘OK guys, maybe we should slow down.’ But me and one of my roommates, we both ended up with some puppies and so off the field I’m hanging out with my Australian Shepherd. I love to take him out, get him out and about. He’s been trying to keep up with my fitness plan so far – some days he’s feeling it and other days he’s not, but you know I love to get outdoors with him.”

He doesn’t have much time for it now

… but Campbell enjoys hunting when he’s away from soccer:

“I like to do some hunting occasionally. It’s pretty difficult timing-wise with soccer, I can’t really plan on any big hunts, but some of my buddies have some land and we’re able to go there occasionally. I also just got Call of Duty for my PS4, so it’ll be interesting…. But for soccer, you’re playing in the morning and you’re kind of required to do some recovery off the field, so it’s a good time to relax and watch some Netflix, play some video games.”

Campbell loves soccer

… but he doesn’t watch much of the sport:

“I don’t watch that much soccer, it’s probably something that I need to get into more, but I don’t have a preference for a team or anything. I just never really got into it that much, but that’s the same with most sports for me, I don’t watch them a ton.”

He lived outside North Carolina for the first time last summer

…. when he moved to Seattle to play for the Sounders U-23 PDL squad:

“This last summer I went up to Seattle, had a great experience there. I think if you look at it, it’s one of the farthest places you can go for MLS from North Carolina. But you get used to the difference and are able to keep up with everyone, and I had a great time there. I really enjoyed it, so I’m prepared to go anywhere.”

Campbell and the Sounders U-23s had a very strong season

… winning the PDL’s Western Conference championship before bowing out in the 63-team league’s semifinals:

“We had a great, great season and everyone asks me, ‘Oh, does that mean Seattle’s going to draft you?’ And no, it’s obviously still a business, but they just have a better idea of who I am as a player, and I obviously got to make some great connections within the Seattle organization. But it was also just a good way to get yourself seen on the West Coast, which, most of my games are on the East Coast, so that’s good that I was able to get out there. And also just the team out there, we brought in some guys from different places, so you’re able to meet a bunch of new guys, make some friends. It was fun.”

UNC has quite the men’s soccer program

… but their women’s team is even more decorated, with Campbell occasionally seeing some of their notable alums at the soccer facility:

“We can go into the gym or go out to the practice field, and we’ll see sometimes some of their alumni out in the field. You’ll see some of those players [from the USA’s 2015 Women’s World Cup-winning squad] out every now and then – Heather O’Reilly, she’s out working out or doing sprints fitness all the time.”