NFL assistant coach strives to keep players achieving their dreams

C orey Campbell, ’16, shifted his studies from biology to exercise science in graduate school at Georgia College & State University. And he’s glad he did. Campbell now lives his dream job as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Carolina Panthers.  

Campbell played football at the University of Georgia. That’s also where he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology. But it was the transition to exercise science in graduate school that put him on track to work for the National Football League (NFL) team. 

Corey Campbell listens to a player during a preseason game against the New England Patriots.
Corey Campbell listens to a player during a preseason game against the New England Patriots.

“When I came to Georgia College, I knew about the human body from a physiological standpoint, but there was a lot I didn't know about exercise science outside of me being an athlete,” Campbell said.

Then, Campbell met Dr. Mike Martino, professor of exercise science and exercise science program coordinator.

“I look at my start at Georgia College as the foundation of my career,” he said. “I can't thank Dr. Martino enough.”

Early on, Martino told Campbell’s class that they had to dive in and apply what they learned in the classroom to the real world. 

Corey Campbell
Corey Campbell

“I appreciate him for being tough on me, believing in me and giving me the confidence and opportunities for what I love to do,” Campbell said. “At first, it was like being thrown into the fire, but I can't say enough about how much better of a coach that made me.”

When Campbell worked as a graduate assistant at Georgia College, Martino gave him the freedom to work with athletes and apply what he learned in a real-world setting. Campbell enjoyed coaching basketball, baseball and softball athletes so much that he knew that’s what he wanted to do.

Every day, Campbell uses the concepts he’s learned from Martino on the job. These include developing strength and conditioning programs, applying various periodization schemes, understanding biomechanics and clearly communicating how those things come into play when creating athlete training programs. He also learned how to assess the pros and cons of his programs and adapt them to better suit each athlete’s needs. 

It's a lot, but it's super rewarding, because the players push themselves to be the best for us. They know we have their best interests in mind. We just want to help them and see them do well so they can live out their dream.
– Corey Campbell

“Working as a graduate assistant was a huge takeaway for me,” Campbell said. “When I began my profession, my experience weighed heavily on me. It was a critical point in my career, and I think that experience is a true testament to where I am today.”

Campbell spends a significant amount of time training the Carolina Panthers during the off-season, doing organized team activities (OTAs) and in preseason training camp. 

Corey Campbell interacts with a player during training camp.
Corey Campbell interacts with a player during training camp.

But, the most exciting part of Campbell’s work happens on game day. 

“I love seeing the players go out on the field and push their abilities to the limit,” Campbell said. “We understand the amount of work they put into their performance. Fans just see these guys play on Sunday.”

On game day, the team begins preparing for the game around 8 a.m. Afterward, Campbell is available for players who want soft-tissue work and stretching. Then, they make their way from the hotel to the stadium, where the weight rooms are open for players who want to get some explosive movements in, or “neuro charge” to awaken their nervous system.

Around two hours before kick-off, Campbell goes into pregame management mode, giving rookies a dynamic warmup, meeting with veteran offensive and defensive players and then putting all players through an early dynamic warmup. The last tasks before kickoff include helping players with any individual or positional needs that they believe best helps them prepare to play.

“You essentially have to be a jack of all trades on game day,” he said.

Once everyone is back in the locker room, the coaches manage the time, making sure team members are ready to go back onto the field.

Campbell and other strength and conditioning coaches space out on the field and echo calls, making sure players understand where they’re going and what they’re doing. If any player needs some extra work, they’ll do that, as well.

During the game, Campbell helps with hydrating and fueling the team, tracking the number of repetitions and with special teams, always asking himself, “How can I help these guys continue to perform at a high level?”

Postgame, Campbell makes sure all the players get back in the locker room for their game debriefing. He also ensures they're physically okay.

“It's a lot, but it's super rewarding because the players push themselves to be the best for us,” he said. “They know we have their best interests in mind. We just want to help them and see them do well so they can live out their dream.”

Day-in, day-out, Campbell has goals for the players to perform at the highest level. 

Corey Campbell walks on the field during practice.
Corey Campbell walks on the field during practice.

“Our job is to prepare them for whenever they have an opportunity,” Campbell said. “Whatever that opportunity is, we want them to be ready for it.”

Campbell has to be flexible and find ways to overcome challenges with the players.

“The player may say, ‘Well, coach, I don't back squat,’ or ‘Don't put a bar on my back, because I can't load my spine.’ So, it's up to us to figure out a different strategy where we can achieve the same goal, but in a mode that the athletes can perform at,” Campbell said. “It’s a bit of give and take.”

Open communication is vital to the players’ success.

“The more you have those open lines of communication, the better it is with the athletes, because at the end of the day, they want to know you're helping them and have their best interests in mind,” Campbell said. “It's not just ‘what I say goes,’ it's a fluid dynamic we have to work through.”

The more the coaches work with the players, the stronger the relationships become.

“Football is these players’ career,” Campbell said. “It's a very interesting dynamic, because as much as I coach them, I value their feedback, because that's going to help me coach them better.”

Ultimately, he just wants to see the players thrive in their football career.

“Watching these guys play successfully, and to know I played a part in that,” Campbell said, “not for the credit or notoriety, but for the simple fact that these players trust me enough to allow me to coach them is what I enjoy most.”

For more information about the Athletic Training M.S. visit the program website.

For more information on our graduate programs, visit The Graduate School website.