Only one receiver in Ohio State history has more receptions in a season than the 79 that Parris Campbell currently owns, which is an amazing thought when you consider how Campbell’s first three years went.
Campbell was a high school running back at St. Vincent – St. Mary in Akron, so his true freshman season was spent learning how to be a wide receiver. He redshirted, remarking this summer that the new rule installed this year that allows players to play in four games without losing a year of eligibility would have done him no good as a freshman because he wasn’t even close to being able to play in one game, let alone four.
As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Campbell actually started the first three games. On the fourth play of Ohio State’s first possession in the season opener on the road at Virginia Tech, Campbell dropped a slant pass over the middle that would have gone 39 yards for a touchdown.
Despite the starts and the playing time, he failed to record a reception in 2015, and that drop against Virginia Tech would show up in his dreams for the next year or two.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, he started nine times and caught 13 passes. He moved from an outside receiver to H-back after the 2016 season, but entered 2017 with as many career tackles (13) as catches.
In the spring of 2017, it was clear that he found his home, and he went out and proved that with 40 receptions for a team-high 584 yards last season while splitting reps with fellow H-back KJ Hill.
This season, however, he has put those numbers to shame.
His 79 receptions are just six short of David Boston’s school record of 85 in 1998, and his 992 yards receiving mean that he is just eight yards from becoming the first Buckeye with 1,000 yards receiving since Michael Jenkins in 2002.
Only four Ohio State receivers have ever hit the 1,000-yard mark, and barring something disastrous against Washington in the Rose Bowl, Parris Campbell will be joining the 1,000-yard club with Boston, Jenkins, Terry Glenn, and Cris Carter, who are essentially OSU’s Mt. Rushmore of wide receivers.
“I feel like I just put it all together,” Campbell said. “I’ve showed I can do multiple things on the field. Increasing my ball skills was my No. 1 goal coming into this season. I feel like I accomplished that. To be a more precise, clean route runner, I feel like I’ve accomplished that. Everything I worked on in the offseason translated on to the field and showed each and every game.”
Campbell and senior receiver Terry McLaurin are both tied with a team-high 11 touchdown catches, which is the most for a Buckeye since Devin Smith had 12 in 2014. The 11 touchdowns ties for fifth-most in a season in OSU history. The only players with more are Smith, Glenn, and Boston, who did it twice.
Campbell’s 192 yards receiving against Michigan were the sixth-most in school history, and the most against the Wolverines since David Boston put 10 catches and 217 yards on them in 1998.
His three receptions of at least 60 yards this season were the most for a Buckeye since Devin Smith in 2012.
With one game to play, Campbell currently has the second-most catches, the fifth-most yards receiving, the fifth-most touchdown catches, and the third-most catches per game (6.1) in a season in Ohio State history.
Not bad for a former running back.
“It’s been a long road, it’s been a long five years of development, but I never quit, never gave up on myself,” he said. “Others might have. I stayed true to myself, stayed true to my work ethic, put in numerous hours each and every day, every offseason.”
Campbell now has one game left as a Buckeye. With seven catches against Washington, he can set a new single-season school record for receptions, but even if he “falls short” of that mark it will still have been a great final season wearing the Scarlet and Gray.
“I’m happy,” he said. “God willing, hopefully I can play this great game for as long as I can. Development never stops. That’s what I’ve learned from Coach [Brian] Hartline. No matter how good you think you are, no matter how far you think you’ve gotten, development never stops. People who think once you get drafted in the NFL you’ve reached a peak, I definitely don’t look at it that way.”