The Indianapolis Colts were enamored with Parris Campbell's speed when the team selected him in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft — and, after Campbell logged a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, it's hard to blame them.
But Campbell showed he was much more than a deep-ball threat during his college career at Ohio State, where he finished with 143 total receptions, including a Buckeyes program record 90 catches his senior season in 2018.
And now, as Campbell gets into the thick of his fourth NFL season, he's really starting to show signs of blossoming into the all-around threat he showed he could be during his last two years in Columbus.
Against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Campbell logged a career-best 10 receptions, finishing with 70 total receiving yards and hauling in a touchdown for the second straight week, as he worked with quarterback Matt Ryan to take advantage of a Tennessee defense that was determined not to allow anything significant to develop over the top.
"We knew that they were playing a lot of zone coverage, and they're really giving us a lot of short stuff if we're dinking and dunking our way down the field," Campbell told Colts.com's Larra Overton after the game. "That's good for us, because we have guys that can catch short passes and get yards after the catch."
Campbell has had quite the journey since entering the NFL ranks with the Colts, as his first three seasons have ended with him on the injured reserve list. Making matters worse was the timing of those injuries; in all three instances it appeared Campbell was really starting to find his role within the offense before he was forced to miss a significant amount of time.
But Campbell has remained positive year after year, confident in his belief that with good health, and a little bit better luck, the positive results would follow. And while this season certainly got off to a slow start — with just 14 total targets the first five weeks of the year — Campbell has really taken off of late. He had 11 targets with seven receptions, 57 yards, and a touchdown in last week's home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and followed that up with 12 targets with 10 receptions, 70 yards and another score Sunday in Indy's 19-10 loss at Nissan Stadium.
That's 23 targets, 17 receptions, 127 receiving yards and two scores alone the last two weeks — clear proof of added trust from the veteran Ryan.
"Just obviously through camp and in the beginning of the season to where it is now, you can definitely feel the shift and just the connection, the chemistry," Campbell said. "And it's been good for us. But we've just got to keep getting better."
That last sentence — "But we've just got to keep getting better" — is most important to Campbell, however. He's certainly happy to be a positive contributor, but despite all his challenges to get to where he is currently, he'd gladly put zeros in the stat sheet if it meant his team won more ballgames.
"Man, any day of the week I'd rather have a win," Campbell said of balancing his results Sunday with a frustrating divisional loss. "I mean, obviously I want to do everything I can to help this team in a positive way, but if it's going to end up in a loss — I'd rather have the W."
The good news for Campbell and the Colts is, at 3-3-1, there's still a lot of football left. Indianapolis next plays host to the Washington Commanders (3-4) next Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Man, we've got a lot of football left. And I think every man on this roster, coaches included, like, we know it's not the end of the world. Obviously we love this game and we want to win the division so bad, so this one hurts extra, but we've got to go back to the drawing board, man, because we've got a lot of football left," Campbell said. "If you mope about this one too long, it's gonna roll over into the next week. So we've just got to get back in tomorrow, watch the film, get the corrections and move forward. We can't dwell on this for too long."