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Chris Murphy, Published December 26 2013

Fergus Falls' Campion overcomes injuries to play key role for Gophers

Fargo - University of Minnesota right tackle Josh Campion doesn’t know where his life would be without football. He doesn’t want to know.

“I guess the ultimate thing is it’s gotten me to where I am today,” Campion said. “Without football, I definitely wouldn’t be the man that I am.”

Standing 6-foot-5 and 326 pounds, Campion couldn’t help but chuckle when asked what kind of man football has made him to be.

“You got to be tough,” the Fergus Falls High School (Minn.) graduate said. “There’s bumps and bruises, injuries, and you got to be flexible with your schedule. You got to be able to commit to football. You got to be able to face adversity. If a play doesn’t work right, you look at it, come back and try to attack it again and see if you can do it right the next time.”

For the 2009 Minnesota high school all-state lineman and Mr. Football finalist, Campion fully understands the adversity and the audibles of life.

“I never had any doubts,” Campion said. “I knew that (Minnesota) was where I was supposed to be. I just tried to keep faith that God was going to guide me with what I needed to do. It pretty much tied together.”

Campion grew up playing backyard football with his older brothers Pete – former North Dakota State offensive lineman and seventh-round NFL draft pick – and Chad.

He committed to Minnesota as a junior in 2007 and was former coach Tim Brewster’s first in-state commit. A back problem that required surgery kept him away from the program. Campion went back to Fergus Falls to work out and recover for a year, but was unable to qualify academically the next year.

Campion enrolled at Fork Union Academy in Virginia where he helped lead the Blue Devils to a VISAA Division I state championship.

Current University of Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill asked if Campion wanted a chance to play with the Gophers after his stint in Virginia. He then dealt with concussion problems forced him to redshirt in 2011.

Since then, Campion has dug in at right tackle in 25 starts with No. 26 coming today against Syracuse in the Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium. The injuries are behind him.

“The injuries were tough, but you just have to prevail through them,” Campion said. “I’m 100 percent now. I don’t even think about the injuries. I just think about getting better at my performance.”

Campion is almost a microcosm of the University of Minnesota this season. The Gophers have won more than seven games for the first time since 2003, they beat Nebraska for the first time since 1960 and they won four straight Big Ten games for the first time since 1973.

All of this coming with questions surrounding whether or not Kill should be coaching after suffering epileptic seizures on the sidelines.

“We really rallied around coach,” Campion said. “He’s our leader and he’s the guy we look up to. Regardless of what’s going on, we’ll always look up to coach. When he’s had some seizures, we’ve always gotten together as a team and said what we were going to do. We always said, ‘Hey, let’s do it for coach,’ and come together and we rallied.”

For the first time, Campion could look out the window on Christmas morning and not see snow on the ground. He was with his two brothers and his dad in Texas getting ready to try to help the University of Minnesota win its first bowl game since 2004, stopping a five-game bowl losing streak.

Campion and Minnesota are looking forward and leaving the past right where it is.

“I kind of just think how blessed I’ve been to have the opportunity to play college football, especially at the U,” Campion said. “It’s a place I’ve always wanted to be and tied with that is goals I want to reach. My ultimate goal is to be a four-year starter and play as long as I can. Our ultimate goal as a team is to get nine wins. We’re sitting at 8-4, and we need to secure nine wins.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548