From walking on as a free safety, to becoming a scout team staple, West Virginia’s starting middle linebacker, Shea Campbell, has done nothing but climb a steep ladder since joining the program in 2015.
But despite Morgantown’s hometown hero rising from obscurity as a walk-on to one of the top defensive contributors, something’s now missing on the “Mountaineer Mantrip” pregame parade and in the locker room at Milan Puskar Stadium: his most important teammate, his brother.
Shea’s younger brother, and fellow walk-on linebacker, Jonah Campbell, joined West Virginia in 2016. Similar to Shea, Jonah received no playing time in his initial years as a Mountaineer. After the 2017 season concluded, Jonah departed from the football team to pursue a medical degree and a career as a surgeon.
“When he was here, it was nice because I knew I had somebody, always,” Shea said. “When he said he was done, it caught me off guard a little bit. It was frustrating, but he and I are extremely close, and I always want what’s best for him.”
No longer teammates on the field, the brothers still live together on West Virginia’s campus. Rather than suiting up in full padding and mingling on the sidelines, Jonah now positions himself in the stands as Shea’s most ardent supporter. In their first season apart, Shea continues communication on game days by calling Jonah on the field prior to warm-ups.
Now an outsider, Jonah has witnessed all the success unfold. After experiencing elevated playing time, Shea is enjoying a breakout season with 19 total tackles and one interception in five outings.
“It’s really been a blessing,” Jonah said. “But it’s hard because you see him have success at the beginning of the season, and then you’ve been waiting for him to get his chance again, and he makes the most of it. Watching him play — he deserves it, he’s earned it. There’s no doubt anymore, he’s the guy.”
Shea, the quieter of the two siblings, is never one to shy away from personal goals. The redshirt junior is focused on leaving college with degrees in multidisciplinary studies and civil engineering, but he’s additionally excelling with the speed and physicality of the collegiate game in his first year of on-field action.
“I knew that I would get my opportunity, but I wasn’t expecting it to be like this,” Shea said. “I changed positions, so there was a lot of physical development that was needed in order for me to be the most physical I can be on the field.”
Now, the middle linebacker is one of the strongest Mountaineers, capable of squatting 600 pounds. This comes as no surprise to Jonah, who has been working and competing with his older brother since their youth football days.
“A lot of times he would pave the road for success,” Jonah said. “And then they’d look at me and be like, ‘That’s Shea’s brother,’ so I had a lot of expectations to live up to because he’s a great athlete. It’s like a family competition, because we would constantly try to work to get that edge on each other, as a friendly family type of deal.”
Family runs extremely deep in the Campbell family. Shea and Jonah are two of eight siblings, ranging in age from a half sister who has yet to celebrate her first birthday to his 25-year-old step brother. Jonah, the only other Mountaineer of the eight, can’t help but show his unwavering support no
matter where Shea is competing on Saturdays.
“I don’t personally get to see the success down on the field as much,” Jonah said. “I’m still not going to miss anything for him, and I think he knows as long as I’m there watching, I’ll still get to see it.”
West Virginia travels 1,400 miles to Austin for a showdown with Texas this Saturday afternoon. Shea will travel on the team plane, but his eternal teammate will also make the trip to continue and share their unique Mountaineer experience.