When Cory Campbell gets to college he’ll have a seemingly endless list of rules to follow.
He won’t be allowed to drive anywhere for two years. He’ll have strict curfews. He won’t be able to socialize with anyone outside of his approximately 100-person squadron and he will be required to jog to class with his backpack dangling from his left hand—in a running lane designated for freshman. If he passes anyone on the other side of the lane, he’ll have to greet them.
While many departing seniors are scoping out the nightlife in their respective future college towns, Campbell is three weeks away from starting basic training at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He’ll then train to play on their Division I baseball team.
The Air Force campus is a secluded slab of flat land at the foot of the Pike National Forest, outside of town and a considerable drive from Denver. It’s not the most ideal spot for a kid going to get a college experience, but don’t tell that to Campbell.
“I’ve never been to college, so I don’t have an experience to compare it to,” Campbell said, even without a grin. “This is what college is going to be for me, and I’m okay with that.”
Campbell, who excelled in the outfield and at the plate for North Forsyth this past spring, loves the idea of structure. Even though he admits he was a classic procrastinator in high school, he’s looking forward to the discipline and growth he’ll receive at a service academy. He’s also thrilled to have his college paid for, and to have a guaranteed job when he graduates from Air Force.
Campbell gave himself a taste of discipline this past spring, helping lead the Raiders to a 19-11 record and a first-round sweep in the Class AAAAAA playoffs over North Gwinnett. After a successful stint on a talented but more “loose” team his junior season, the Raiders entered 2016 focused, quiet and driven. Head coach Jim Cahill told the FCN at the beginning of the year it was the most mature group of kids he’d ever had, and it showed.
“To get a compliment like that from a great coach means a lot,” Campbell said. “That’s kind of why you want to stay on the path, to grow more, mature more and work harder.”
Campbell led the way, batting .424 with 10 doubles, four home runs and 30 RBI while also stealing 10 bases. He also made frequent highlight catches in the outfield, showcasing range and smarts from center. He was named the Region 6-AAAAAA Player of the Year by coaches and was recently elected to the Georgia Dugout Club’s All-State team.
It wasn’t difficult to select him as the FCN’s 2015-16 Baseball Player of the Year, but he’s still a bit surprised.
“To know there’s so many great athletes in the county and still get this award is awesome,” Campbell said.
FCN: North had another great year. Do you have a favorite memory?
Campbell: Beating North Gwinnett. To get that sweep and go home the first night of the playoffs knowing we took care of business was an awesome feeling.
FCN: Any time you put the work in to get a Division I offer, you had to have done a lot. Put your journey to this point into words.
Campbell: It feels great knowing my work has paid off. All of the batting practices, running, conditioning we’ve done over the years.
FCN: How did Air Force happen? That’s not the most local school.
Campbell: They saw me at a showcase, then I went to another one in San Diego the summer before my junior year. They offered me then and I took a visit and just loved it. It’s different, but I know it’s exactly what I want.
FCN: What do you want to use your experience at Air Force for?
Campbell: I want to become a pilot, and also focus on engineering. But I also want to take the lessons I learn at Air Force and hopefully carry it through the rest of my life.