Football: Seniors Campbell, Ellis coping with injury-related absences


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Despite warming up to play against Iowa last Saturday, senior safety Ibraheim Campbell missed his fourth straight game. Campbell and senior linebacker Collin Ellis have missed large chunks of their senior seasons due to injury.

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor


This should have been a big year for both Ibraheim Campbell and Collin Ellis.

As senior captains and perhaps Northwestern’s two best defensive players, Campbell and Ellis should have ended their careers with glory and plaudits.

Campbell should have supplied big hits and athletic interceptions, Ellis should have contributed sturdy run-stuffing and positional flexibility, and the duo should have led a top-notch Wildcats defense that should have carried NU to the top of the Big Ten West.

But Ellis came out of NU’s Oct. 11 game against Minnesota with a concussion and hasn’t returned to the field since, and Campbell has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since Sept. 27 against Penn State.

“It hasn’t been fun at all,” Campbell said Wednesday. “I’ve been playing football since I was 10 years old, and it’s the first time I’ve had to miss a game.”

Campbell planned to play last weekend at Iowa but decided pre-game that he wasn’t ready. He’s listed as “questionable” for Saturday’s game against Michigan but said if nothing changes before then, he’ll be out there. Ellis, coach Pat Fitzgerald said, is “week-to-week” and unlikely to play Saturday.

Before their injuries, Campbell and Ellis were pillars of the Cats’ defense. Campbell has 285 career tackles and nine interceptions. Ellis, who didn’t start full time until junior year, has 147 career tackles and returned two picks for touchdowns last season against California.

Thus, their absences have left two voids in NU’s defense.

Campbell and Ellis have been tasked with developing their backups, redshirt freshmen Godwin Igwebuike and Anthony Walker, respectively. Campbell has helped Igwebuike prepare for the greater load of playing every down, and Ellis takes notes during games to go over with Walker after each series.

Walker said he and Ellis communicate constantly, returning to the athletic facilities after class to watch more film.

Because Ellis did not practice this week, he was unavailable to media, but Walker said if the senior is taking his absence hard, it doesn’t show.

“He’s always got a smile on his face,” Walker said. “He’s always energetic, and if he is sad I wouldn’t know because he’s live with me. He’s still playing through me.”

Campbell and Ellis have a coach who understands their plight. Fitzgerald broke his leg in the second to last game of the regular season in 1995, his junior year, and sat out while his teammates played in the Rose Bowl.

Fitzgerald said back then he “hit rock bottom” before coming to terms with his situation.

“I can relate to it, but the problem is everybody has to deal with it how they deal with it,” Fitzgerald said. “Their attitudes have been phenomenal. That’s all I can ask.”

Campbell said he’s done everything he can to focus not on his own sorrow, but on leading as best he can from the sideline. The year certainly hasn’t gone just as planned, but it’s not over, for him or for the team. Campbell said he has spoken with Ellis and about their responsibilities as team leaders, even when they’re not playing.

“We’re on the same page,” the safety said. “We understand that we have to do everything we can to help the team win whether we’re on the field or not.”

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Twitter: @AlexPutt02