Jason Campbell's stock rose tremendously after 2004, as front offices all over the NFL got a prime look at the Auburn University quarterback.
The Redskins, who already had chosen Auburn's Carlos Rogers, made Campbell the 25th overall pick in the first round of last April's NFL Draft and the third overall quarterback taken in the draft.
Even though Patrick Ramsey has been designated the starter for 2005 and Mark Brunell is a proven veteran quarterback, Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs is thrilled to have Campbell.
"We've made a big investment in Jason, and it's going to be fun to watch him develop," Gibbs said during training camp. "We're talking about a young quarterback who excelled in college and high school."
Said Campbell, sizing up his goals for his rookie season in the NFL: "No one knows what happen, so you have to be ready. Every quarterback who plays the game practices hard and works hard at it. The NFL is a tough game, and you never know when your number is going to be called."
The rookie quarterback is expected to see action in Thursday night's preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens.
"My main focus is to stay focused, keep working hard," he said. "Coming in here with Patrick and Mark will help me learn and to see what they see. I think it would be harder to come into a situation where the QBs in front of you had not played much. They help me because they have been here and played in games."
When the Redskins drafted Campbell, the former Auburn Tiger was three months removed from a Nokia Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech and an undefeated 13-0 season.
Campbell experienced success early and often at the Southeastern Conference school, the culmination coming in the team's spectacular season of 2004.
After earning the distinction of Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Mississippi in 1999 as well as high All-America honors, Campbell became a highly-touted recruit. Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville and his staff brought him aboard. Campbell had to redshirt his freshman year of 2000, but it paid big dividends in 2001.
Campbell was named the starting quarterback for the 2001 campaign, becoming the first freshman Tiger to make that move in 11 years. He opened the season in grand fashion, as he completed 16-of-28 passes for 214 yards, passing for as for a touchdown and running for another in a 30-0 thrashing of Ball State. He threw for a season-high 247 yards on 17-of-24 passing three weeks later against Vanderbilt. With that, his freshman season was off and running.
Campbell played in 10 of 12 games that season, starting eight, and finished with 1,117 passing yards as he shared time at QB with Daniel Cobb.
Auburn got off to a great start that 2001 season, winning six of its first seven games, but faltered down the stretch. The Tigers lost their final four games, including the game that is most near and dear to the heart of every Tiger fan, the "Iron Bowl" against arch-rival Alabama.
Auburn, ranked 17th in the country at the time, was soundly beaten by the Crimson Tide 31-7 and finished the season with a 16-10 loss to North Carolina in the Peach Bowl.
To start the 2002 season, Campbell once again shared time at quarterback, starting six of 13 games. He led the Tigers in passing yard with 1,115 yards while throwing 11 touchdowns.
He posted a 5-1 record as a sophomore. The team redeemed itself with a 17-7 win in the Iron Bowl and a 13-9 win over Penn State in the Capital One Bowl. For the season, the Tigers finished with a 9-4 overall record.
With a great nucleus returning in 2003, Auburn's expectations went through the roof to start the campaign with a No. 6 pre-season ranking. Finally, Campbell was given full reign of the quarterback position and was able to start every game.
The season wound up being a true breakthrough campaign. He completed 61.8 percent of his passes (181-of-293) on the season. He ranked first in Auburn history with a 62 percent completion percentage.
The first game of 2003 ended in disappointment for Auburn in the form of a loss at home to the Matt Leinart-led USC Trojans 23-0.
Next was a 17-3 setback at Georgia Tech the following week. Later in that 2003 campaign, a 28-23 Iron Bowl win was key toward building confidence for Campbell and Auburn. In the Music City Bowl versus Wisconsin, which Auburn won 28-14, Campbell was named MVP as the Tigers finished 8-5 overall to set up their marvelous 2004 season.
Campbell entered his 2004 season at Auburn no longer as an unknown, but as a hot commodity. The expectations for Auburn were not quite as high as the year before, but the results turned out to be a lot better. Campbell led the Tigers to their first 13-win season in school history, blowing by an incredibly tough Southeastern Conference schedule, culminating in a 38-28 win over Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game.
The conference title was Auburn's first in 15 years. The Tigers polished off the season with the win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, where Campbell was once again named MVP. Coincidentally, as college football fans are well aware, USC remained undefeated as well and Auburn had to settle with a No. 2 final ranking in the polls.
Campbell became one of only two players in Auburn history to pass for more than 7,000 yards in career. He also completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 2,700 yards (207.7 per game)
and 20 touchdowns.
The accolades kept rolling in. Campbell earned the Coaches' SEC Offensive Player of the Year and AP SEC Offensive Player of the Year.
Campbell saw his first NFL experience in the Redskins' 28-10 setback at Carolina in the pre-season opener. He hit 10-of-19 passes for 132 yards, with one interception. It was a starting point in an NFL career that promises to be a productive one.
Campbell also saw brief action in last Friday's preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FedExField. He was 0-for-2 on pass attempts.