UAlbany’s Campion stands out in a crowd

Matt Campion can’t hide on the football field — or anywhere else, for that matter.
UAlbany junior Matt Campion, a graduate of Stillwater High School, is shown in action against Holy Cross last year.
UAlbany junior Matt Campion, a graduate of Stillwater High School, is shown in action against Holy Cross last year.

Matt Campion can’t hide on the football field — or anywhere else, for that matter.

The 6-foot-5, 330-pound University at Albany offensive guard is the largest player on the Great Danes’ roster and the only Section II player currently slated to start on either side of the ball. The Stillwater High School graduate started all 12 games for the Great Danes last year and also four of the nine games he played in 2013.

“Obviously, I’m usually the biggest guy out there,” said the redshirt junior. “I just try to get the job done. It’s not always pretty. I’ve always been able to move pretty well for a big guy. They say I’ve got good feet for a man my size.”

The UAlbany coaching staff loves Campion’s physical game, but they are even more impressed with the mental side of their gentle giant.

“I think he’s a big man who plays big. He’s not afraid to mix it up,” UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said after practice at Bob Ford Field Friday. “Training camp is very hard on the big guys. He’s too big, in a way, and the heat usually gets to these guys. But he’s taking it well, and he hasn’t missed a practice yet. I like the fact that he has a little nasty streak that he uses only when he’s on the field, but he’s also a bright guy who knows how to play.”

One of Campion’s biggest fans is UAlbany offensive line coach Jim Sweeney, who definitely knows what it takes to win the tough battles in the trenches. The former NFL standout played 11 seasons with 158 consecutive starts at center with the New York Jets, earning all-rookie team honors and gaining a spot on the All-Time Four Decades Team. He played one season for the Seattle Seahawks and four more with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“He has the size, and I like his athleticism,” Sweeney said of Campion. “He’s also very nimble for a big guy. He’s also very positive. He just goes out and plays every day, just like offensive linemen are supposed to do. People don’t realize that as offensive linemen, everything we do is a learned technique. It’s not a natural position for us to play.You must be tough mentally, and Matt is definitely that. He’s a tough guy, and he has excellent instincts. All offensive linemen know that we never get the credit, but we always get the blame. But I tell our guys that we have big shoulders, so we should be able to carry that kind of responsibility. Really, most of the games are won or lost by what the linemen do.”

The soft-spoken Campion understands his responsibilities, both as a durable starter and one of the few local players who will make an impact on the team.

“Every time I go home, all the locals treat me well. They are very proud of me,” he said. “It’s fun for me to get their respect. I also love representing both Stillwater and all of Section II with the way I play. This time of year, you just have to dig deep when it comes to training camp. It’s not fun, but you just have to make the most of it. It’s the same way all of us linemen treat injuries. If we break a thumb or something like that, we just keep playing. That’s what linemen do. We take pride in stuff like that. We just suck it up.”

Campion began his career as a tackle, but he was recently moved to guard. “It took a little getting used to,” he said. “Run blocking as a tackle was a lot easier, but the pass-blocking was tougher. Now, it’s a lot easier pass-blocking as a guard, but it’s more difficult to run-block. Now, though, I enjoy being a guard.”

Campion smiled when he was asked about what his coaches called his mean streak. “Actually, I was always a really nice guy. I think I got nastier when they moved me from tackle to guard,” he said with a grin.

“We have a lot of talent on this team, and I’m just glad to be part of it and to play my role. My goal is to first win our first game at Buffalo. Then, we want to win the league championship. I think we can do it.”

Categories: College Sports

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