Read the words, live the words

College is hard.

It is also the best four or five years of a person’s life.

You meet people from all over the nation and, maybe, the world.

You learn how to figure out life as you grow up.

Teenagers quickly learn that high school, for the most part, was probably the easiest four years of their lives – they just didn’t know it at the time.

College is about professors handing out a syllabus with no care in the world about the syllabus just handed out by the English, psychology, science, math and psychology professors.

College is about five quizzes in a week, followed by three midterms in a week, followed by spring break, followed by two 25-page papers.

Then, you add athletics.

For high school athletes making the jump to collegiate athletics, life can be really difficult.

And, different.

A college basketball player is a college basketball player for 12 months.

Just, pick a sport.

It becomes much like a job.

The difference is you have a head coach, coaching staff and teammates to answer to.

No longer is it summer workouts and three months of football, followed by four months of basketball, followed by 10-ish weeks of baseball.

It is weight room, film room, study, school, classes, practice, more weights, more play, drill work, classes and, oh year, some sleep.

It’s just not easy.

Weir High graduate L.J. Campbell found that out at Walsh.

It was my pleasure to do a story on him for Sunday’s editions. I highly suggest you read it. Not because I wrote it, but because of what L.J. had to say about his experiences at Walsh and how they formed him into the man he is.

I first saw L.J. play junior high basketball at Jefferson County Christian.

Really good player.

Even a better kid.

Never had excuses.

His parents wouldn’t allow it.

After four years at Weir High under coach Mike Granato, Campbell went to Walsh, where he just finished his basketball career.

A career of ups and downs.

A career equal to a rollercoaster.

A career never easy.

A career he was ready to throw away.

“It was hard still coming off the bench,” he said. “I would work so hard and it seems like I wouldn’t get anywhere. I even called my parents at one point and told them I wanted to quit, but thank God they did not let me quit. They are such a great support system for me and I am blessed to have parents to be there and to support me.”

Excuse me?

Parents who did not have roasted coach for dinner?

Parents who did not give their son the easy way out?

Amen.

I had the pleasure of being around Larry Sr. and Carrie Campbell during my years at JCCS and I can just imagine how that conversation went with L.J.

Accountability.

Responsibility.

Finishing a commitment.

Keeping your word.

L.J. still had to figure things out and, he did.

“I really had to understand that it wasn’t about me, it’s about the team and doing what you had to do to help the team win and be the best they can be,” he said. “My role was going in there and playing good defense and getting rebounds. I was not worried about scoring because that will come. My job was to play big and get rebounds.”

L.J. figured out his role.

Every player on every team has a role.

Every role is different.

Every role is important.

How long will it take for each person on the team to understand and embrace their role?

The sooner that happens, the better for everyone associated with the program.

“I played behind Kenny Kornowski (6-foot-10) Hrvoje Vucic (7-1), a Division 1 transfer from Valparaiso, and both currently playing overseas,” said Campbell. “The only way I would get on the court wasn’t by scoring, it was by playing tough and getting rebounds.

“Nothing in life was given to me, I had to work for it and that was the same way on the court. I knew I wasn’t the best athlete there but I wouldn’t let anyone out-work me. When I was in the game I really had to play as hard as I could for what time I had to make an impact.

“Our head coach (Jeff Young) always preaches to us about work, because there will be days when shots are not falling, and calls are not going your way, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to stop working.”

Regardless of what happens, you bust your behind.

Circumstances cannot allow you to quit playing hard.

What happens when things get tough in the classroom?

The job?

The marriage?

“I really believe that work and hustle is very important on the court and outside of the court, not giving up when things are not going your way,” said Campbell, a physical education major. “It’s something that has stuck with me all my years at Walsh.”

Amen!

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com, followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike and is on the radio weekday mornings from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. with Joey Klepack and from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturdays on WEIR-AM)