POCATELLO — Saturday’s game against Eastern Washington will be the final game at Holt Arena for a large class of Idaho State seniors. With that moment rapidly approaching, the Idaho State Journal caught up with one of those seniors, tight end Austin Campbell, to discuss the significance of Saturday’s game, plus his ISU memories and his post-football plans.
Idaho State Journal: What will senior day this Saturday mean for you?
Austin Campbell: It’s kind of a bittersweet moment, you know? It’s kind of cool getting to the end, but it’s also kind of sad that it’s going to come to an end at the same time. Just like everything that the seniors and myself have been through here at this program, it’s kind of a cool feeling to see where we’ve come from and the strides we’ve been able to make.
ISJ: Has the end of your career hit you at all yet?
AC: I think last game (at Holt against Northern Colorado), it kind of did a little bit. For a lot of my family, it will be the last home game that they see me play in because some of them will be out of town this week. But I don’t think it still fully has. I’ve told my wife, I’m kind of going through a little crisis.
I’ve been a football player my entire life, pretty much, so it’s going to be weird not being a football player anymore.
ISJ: Freshman quarterback Sagan Gronauer got his first action against Northern Colorado. How do you think he did?
AC: I thought Sagan did a pretty good job. We knew we just had to step up and be leaders and help him out. I thought we did a pretty good job of that, especially running the ball. I think we knew that, (in) the second half, we were just going to have to put it on the ground, and we ended up rushing for quite a bit (of yardage). I thought we did a pretty good job running the ball.
ISJ: Yeah, I know the offensive linemen were pretty happy to be relying on the run near the end of that game. Was it the same for you?
AC: That was probably the sorest I’ve ever been after a game. That was a physical game. It was good just being able to get the nasty on and be really physical. I like when we have to go straight like that, because it’s kind of like you’re in one mindset and it’s just, beat up the guy in front of you, you know?
ISJ: When do you think the emotions will hit you this Saturday?
AC: Probably towards the end of it. I’d probably say when the game’s over, it’ll probably be weird taking off my pads after a home game for the last time. It’ll be an interesting experience. I don’t know quite what to expect yet, though. It’s kind of one of those things where I’m just going to have to feel out the moment. Hopefully, it works our way, and it’ll be a great feeling.
ISJ: This week’s game is against Eastern Washington, typically one of the top programs in the Big Sky Conference. The last time you played them was in 2016, so it’s been a while, but what are you expecting?
AC: They’re pretty much a premier team in the conference, so they’re always going to get everybody’s best shot. I think everybody looks forward to competing against the best, one of the best teams in the conference year in and year out. They’re always pretty sound everywhere, it seems like they always have good quarterbacks, always have a really explosive offense, and lately, their defense has been playing pretty good too.
ISJ: You guys have bounced back after bad losses before during this season, most notably after the Montana game. With a three-game losing streak currently, do you think this team has another rebound in it?
AC: I think so. I think a lot of guys are hungry. I think these last three games, I think they’ve shocked us probably more than anybody. I think guys are going to be hungry to get one more, at least. We just have to go 1-0 this week, so that’s kind of our goal, our mindset.
ISJ: You went to Blackfoot High School, not that far up the road. What’s the ISU experience been like for you as a local kid?
AC: Just kind of a cool experience. I think it was really nice that I was able to have my family come to every single game, pretty much, and really support me. Especially being from here, it just makes it a little more sweet seeing the program get better over the last four years. It’s a cool thing to see as a local kid. But, yeah, it’s just nice being able to play in front of friends and family every week.
ISJ: Did you always know you were going to Idaho State?
AC: Not really. I went on my mission after high school, and I didn’t have any Division I offers, and so I walked on my first semester and got a scholarship right after that. It was kind of an unorthodox experience.
ISJ: You’re a pretty dedicated student as well. How’s that been going?
AC: It’s been good. I’m a health science major, and that’s why this year has been kind of interesting. My wife and I had a kid seven months ago, in the spring, so I’ve got a baby at home, I’ve got my last season, and then I’ve been applying to physician assistant school. So I’ve been interviewing (for those). I’ve been accepted to three places so far. It’s been interesting, I’m kind of going all over the place this year. Flying for football, and then leaving the next day and flying somewhere else to interview.
ISJ: And that’ll be in the spring, once you graduate?
AC: I graduate in December, but I’ll have like six or seven months off before I go to PA school. I got accepted to Creighton University already, so I think that’s where my wife and I are going to end up, over in Omaha (Nebraska).
ISJ: Looking forward to the time off?
AC: It’ll be really nice. I’m trying to savor these last few weeks, but it’ll be nice to recover and not wake up and feel like I just got hit by a car every day.
ISJ: So your football career is likely over, then?
AC: I think so. I feel like I’m pretty satisfied with the career that I’ve been able to have, from high school to college. I feel like I can hang my hat on it and not just feel like playing. My next thing in life is waiting for me, my next chapter.
ISJ: What are the moments you’ll remember from your playing career?
AC: Not just overall moments, but I think I’ll just always think back on having a good locker room environment. It’s fun having the lifelong friends that you develop in college, and even the good relationships I have with the coaches, I think that’s going to be the main thing I cherish when I’m done. Just having good lifelong friends and knowing that we’ll talk about the things that we did, 10 years from now, what we did here, and just reminisce.
ISJ: Anything else you’re thinking about going into this final home game?
AC: I’m just really grateful for the city of Pocatello and the support that they’ve given the athletic program and the football team. We’ve had a lot of awesome games here in the last four years, here in Holt Arena, so it’ll be kind of sad having the last game here.