Sports

Riders' Campbell looking to set new personal best in final university track meet

Tevaughn Campbell warms up for 60-metre sprint training at the University of Regina on Thursday, March 2, 2017. The track athlete, also a cornerback with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, will compete in the U Sports indoor championship. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

Tevaughn Campbell warms up for 60-metre sprint training at the University of Regina on Thursday, March 2, 2017. The track athlete, also a cornerback with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, will compete in the U Sports indoor championship. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

Tevaughn Campbell won't let the burden of expectation weigh him down at his final Canadian university track and field competition.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders cornerback heads to Edmonton this weekend as the defending men's 60-metre champion. The four-time Canada West titleholder over that distance captured last year's U Sports crown in 6.67 seconds, a school record and personal-best time.

Campbell will complete his final season of collegiate eligibility in Edmonton for the University of Regina. Ideally, the six-foot, 200-pound Toronto native would like to exit running under 6.67 seconds.

"I'm looking to run a personal best, coming second, third, fourth, it doesn't really matter to me," Campbell said. "I know I've achieved a lot in my career so (not winning gold) wouldn't reflect negatively on my abilities.

"I'm finishing my business degree and so if I can finish school and go out on top that's definitely a plus. But if I don't, I still finish school and that's nothing to feel sorry about."

Calgary's Sam Effah set the Canadian university record of 6.57 seconds in 2010.

Campbell has played the last two seasons in the CFL but can run track at Regina because he's not participating in the same sport he plays professionally. In Edmonton, Campbell will also compete with the Rams' 4x200-metre relay squad.

Campbell said track training enhances his football preparation.

"It helps with your conditioning and speed and football is a sport you need speed, especially at cornerback," Campbell said. "I do two different training segments.

"I'll do speed first, which is during track season, then after I'll do a more heavy powerlifting gaining phase but still incorporate speed into it so I don't fall off. There are two different speeds in football: sideways speed and forward speed. I kind of incorporate the sideways speed into the second part of my training."

This season, Campbell also won the 60-metre events at the Bison Classic on Feb. 3 (6.95 seconds) and Golden Bear Challenge in Edmonton on Feb. 10 (6.91 seconds).

While this weekend's event will be the final one of his university career, Campbell hopes to run in future competitions.

"It's not going to be the last time you see me run but it might be for a while," he said. "There's a chance I might make an appearance."

Campbell has been running track since the third grade. He took up football as a teenager at the community level because there wasn't a program at his school.

Campbell switched to a school that offered football his final year but did so in the second semester after the season. Still, he spent four years at Regina (2011-14, redshirting in 2012), registering 51 tackles and a sack in 20 career games.

Campbell also had 42 punt returns for 440 yards and returned 20 kickoffs for 423 yards. He was named a Canada West all-star and second-team All-Canadian in 2013 but opened eyes at the 2015 CFL combine, breaking the 40-yard dash record with an electronically timed run of 4.355 seconds.

The Calgary Stampeders took Campbell in the third round, 22nd overall, in the 2015 CFL draft. He appeared in five games before being dealt to Saskatchewan in February 2016 for a 2017 fourth-round pick.

Campbell, 23, started four-of-17 contests last season with Saskatchewan, registering 12 tackles, one interception, a fumble recovery for a TD and a sack. He's anxious for the 2017 campaign, the Riders' second under head coach/GM Chris Jones after the club posted a West Division-worst 5-13 mark last year.

"Last year was definitely a different atmosphere," he said. "We all came in new, new players, new systems, new everything.

"Coming into the second year we'll have a lot more experience."

Speed kills in football but so does experience. Almost all defensive backs are quick but the majority must learn and perfect the art of baiting a quarterback — laying off coverage to give the impression a receiver is open while still being close enough to jump the route once the ball is thrown and be in position to make the interception.

It's a tricky proposition because being to close means the quarterback will simply look for another receiver. Being too far away allows for an easy completion.

 Campbell is still learning the nuances of the pro game, but he relishes those situations where a quarterback and receiver feel then can prey upon his inexperience.

"I like being taken for granted," he said. "The quarterback and receiver look you down and think 'OK, I've got this guy,' and throw the ball not knowing you have the makeup speed to catch up, that speed to keep up with someone."

Campbell wants to make a bigger impact with Saskatchewan in 2017. He's entering the final year of his CFL contract and won't rule out taking a second shot south of the border, having attended the New York Giants' mini-camp in 2015.

"When I took my first shot in the NFL I was coming off just two years playing defence (with Regina) and my second year was cut short by an ankle sprain," he said. "With two years (of pro experience) under my belt I'm definitely a better player now.

"I can deceive players into thinking I'm weaker or slower but there's definitely more strength and explosiveness behind me now."

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