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BURNSTEIN COLUMN: Jayru Campbell at turning point in life, as heavy decisions lie ahead

By: Scott Burnstein, September 18, 2014, 10:45 pm

This is no longer about football.

It’s literally about saving Jayru Campbell’s life.

Because as of this moment this young man’s life is headed for a tragic outcome. Where he plays football in the future or even if he plays at all, should really not even be discussed. It’s a non-issue at this point and quite frankly offensive to the incredibly sad and terribly unfortunate situation at hand.

How did we get here? How did we get from discussing repeat Division 1 state titles at Detroit Cass Tech and breathtaking performances under the bright lights of Ford Field by a fearless, fresh-faced 14-year old quarterback who seemingly had the world at his finger tips to a youngster on the verge of adulthood and facing serious time behind bars for a series of assaults?

I’m sure it’s complex and we might never know the half of it.

Some of it has to be placed on his own anger-management issues and feelings of self-entitlement. Some of it on his lack of a stable support network – his father was allegedly arrested at the Technicians’ state semifinal game against Detroit Catholic Central last November. I’ve been told by numerous Cass Tech employees that Campbell was picked up from Wayne County Jail last Friday afternoon by a school administrator, not a parent or legal guardian.

If what is stated in the previous paragraph is true, this tells us a lot about what’s going on at home and at school, and it’s not good.

The manner in which those at Cass Tech have handled their all-state quarterback and adolescent wunderkind hasn’t done him any favors, either. Those in authority never held him to the level accountability they needed to, all the way to the fact that prior to Friday’s arrest he appeared to be ready to return to the team this week with no questions asked. Head coach Thomas Wilcher said as much in the wake of Campbell’s sentencing to jail time back in May for his January body-slamming of a Cass Tech security guard. I’m informed that a number of teachers at the school were so upset by the preferential treatment he received they jointly filed a complaint with Detroit Public Schools last spring.

If the in-school assault was the first chink in the armor with Campbell it would have been one thing, but it wasn’t. He had been a disciplinary case for the latter-part of the 2013 football season. He was suspended, for unspecified reasons, for the first half in each of Cass Tech’s first four playoff games, and he threw a punch at an opposing player in the handshake line following Cass Tech’s 28-0 loss to Catholic Central in the semifinals.

There are reports of more incidents, both in jail and out. If these most recent incidents prove true or not, the picture that is being painted is one that is teetering close to fatal.

Campbell’s life is at stake here. It isn’t about football any longer. We can only hope that this young man can become a functional member of society in the future and not lose his life to the streets, the penitentiary or worse. That’s where we are right now and if things don’t change and change soon it will be the latter we’re looking at, not the former.

What allegedly transpired last Friday displayed a convict’s mentality. The fact that Campbell’s first instinct after gaining his freedom from two months behind bars was to get into a public physical confrontation with his girlfriend is the action of an emotionally-disturbed person. He needs help and hopefully he can get it through counseling, if he stays in jail for the foreseeable future or not.

This is not a dumb jock we’re dealing with. In my time covering him, Jayru Campbell came across to me as well-spoken, articulate and intelligent. His mind, his understanding of the game at the quarterback position, was his greatest attribute on the field, in my opinion.

That same mind will be what can get him back on track in life and save him from the peril-filled road he’s currently on.

I sincerely hope that in five years we’re talking about the inspiring life-turn-around he’s undergone and not more tragedy.