In 2013, Will Campbell (back row, third from right) won a State Cup with Nether United. This weekend he'll play for a Men's College Cup Championship with the University of North Carolina.
When the University of North Carolina heads to Talen Energy Stadium for the 2017 Men’s College Cup, Will Campbell will feel right at home. Will grew up in Wallingford, located in Delaware County some five miles from Talen Energy Stadium. Prior to joining the Tar Heels, the red-shirt sophomore defender enjoyed an outstanding youth career. He won a 2013 Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer State Cup with a loaded Nether United team, played two years of ODP (making the Region I team in the process), and went on to play for the Philadelphia Union Academy.
Will, who has made eight appearances in his two seasons with North Carolina, took time out of his busy week—he is preparing for both the College Cup and finals—to chat about his youth development, the College Cup and his friendship with fellow Union Academy product Morgan Hackworth, a classmate at Strath Haven High School, who is making his own homecoming with Akron.
Tickets to the 2017 Men's College Cup are still available here.
How did you approach new opportunities as they came about in your youth development?
Will Campbell: My head coach at Nether United was John Waraksa. People had been asking me to move (to a bigger club), but I believed in him and that he could develop me into a good player. When Jim Curtin and (John) Hackworth, Morgan Hackworth’s dad, who was at the time the coach of the first team, presented me with the opportunity to go to the Union, after a lot of talking, we decided that it was time. I was starting to get comfortable where I was, and I know that once you get comfortable, your progression slows. I jumped to the Union. Mr. Hackworth thought it would be a good move and it was.
What was your biggest takeaway from the whole development process?
WC: You really have to know where you’re at as a player. You can’t make any moves too quickly, and you can’t make any moves too late. You can never be comfortable, because once you feel comfortable in an area, and you start feeling like you’re the best player there, then that’s when you relax. You can never relax if you want to go to the next level.
At what point did you realize that Division I college soccer is where you wanted to be?
WC: To be honest, I just played my hardest every time I went out on the field. I’m the type of kid that whatever situation presents itself I’ll explore it. I just made sure every time I went out there, I gave it my all, whether it was practice or a game, to give myself the best opportunity to open any doors that I could I go into.
Who were some people you may have looked up to growing up with Nether and going to Strath Haven High School?
WC: For me, Coach Waraksa, I just know that I trusted him as a coach. He had a big role in developing me as a player and making sure that any moves I made, it was in my best interest, not just because it was the biggest, coolest thing to do. He made sure my development was going down the right path.
What stands out about winning the 2013 Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup?
WC: It was a bunch of guys that came from a local team, and we were going up against Lehigh Valley United, who was the powerhouse in our age group at the time. They had won four or five state cups (Editor's note: four straight from 2009-2012). And it was a group of guys who really just stuck by our coach. We had guys like Auston Trusty, my younger brother (Robert Campbell, a Clemson sophomore) was there, Shane and Conor Bradley who are currently playing at Villanova; we had good players in a small concentrated area. It was probably one of my most enjoyable experiences doing that with a group of guys who you grew up a mile away from.
What did you gain from playing ODP, or what did you enjoy most about your experience there?
WC: ODP, I think that was my first real challenge as a soccer player. I had come from a team where I was always the person everyone looked up to. I was the leader. It was kids I grew up with, who I was comfortable with. ODP was the first time really I stepped out of my comfort zone with people I didn’t know and new coaches—things like that. It really showed me how if you want to keep it moving in the sport, you have to sometimes go outside your comfort zone and do different things, play different positions that maybe you don’t know how to play, figure out how to work in any situation.
How did you end up at North Carolina?
WC: Honestly, I just played hard every game. I was with the Union Academy. I did my best to show that I could play. I continued to be a leader. I worked hard every practice, just did my best really. That’s all you can really do. Then one day after the winter showcase, I got an email from them. I just knew that their coach (Carlos Somoano) was somebody, he’s really an amazing coach, that pushes people to be better. That’s the type of person I wanted to be around, because that’s the type of person that can make me the best player I can be. I committed the spring of my junior year of high school.
Last year you guys get to the College Cup, fall short. At what point during this season, because the soccer season is unlike any other collegiate sport, did you start planning for that trip back?
WC: The day our season ended. We knew we could get back. We also knew the type of work it would take. From the first day of practice back, our coach and our team decided we were going to look at every day like it was the national championship game. If it’s a practice game or a scrimmage or the first game of the season, we always view it as our national championship game. We know that if you don’t work that hard, when you’re there at the National Championship, it’s not going to happen.
What have the training sessions been like as you get closer to the College Cup?
WC: We just focus on ourselves, focus on our game plan, what we have to do to win each game. We know at our core, if we work hard every day that if you do your own job, things will fall into place.
How close are you with Akron’s Morgan Hackworth (Union Academy/Strath Haven High School)?
WC: He’s one of my best friends for a long time.
Have you guys talked at all in this week leading up?
WC: Yeah, we said we’re looking forward to seeing each other, but at the same time, when we’re there, we know it’s all business. We both want to win a national championship. We’re both winners. That’s what we do, and we’re looking forward to competing.
What would it mean to you to win a national championship five miles from your home?
WC: It’d be amazing, back in the home stadium. Honestly though, it wouldn’t be any different than winning a national championship in Houston to me. As long as we bring one home, I’ll be content.