McALLEN — In front of a standing-room-only crowd surrounded by family, friends and teammates, McAllen Memorial senior Campbell Speights inked his national letter of intent to formally sign with the U.S. Naval Academy to continue his football career collegiately Wednesday afternoon in the McAllen Memorial High School gym.
The ceremony marked the end of a long four-year run for the Mustangs’ running back that etched his name into the record books and left an indelible imprint on high school football throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
“There were a lot of nerves going into this because I knew it was going to happen. Overall, it’s been about belief and saying thank you. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time and for it to finally come is just a dream come true,” Speights said. “I wasn’t expecting to do something crazy. I just wanted to come in and play ball like I always have. When you put your mind to it, you dream and you keep chasing it, things like this happen.”
Speights took over the starting job in the Mustangs’ backfield when he first stepped foot on campus.
He didn’t wait long to burst onto the scene either, rushing for 150 yards and three touchdowns in his first career high school game. Speights also bookended his high school playing days with a phenomenal performance on senior night, when he for a career-high 414 yards and five touchdowns.
When it was all said and done, Speights started in all 46 Memorial games during his four-year tenure and finished his senior season with 7,541 rushing yards 110 touchdowns on the ground and 39 100-yard games, the fifth-most in Texas high school football history.
He credits his prolonged production to head coach Bill Littleton and the rest of the Mustangs’ coaching staff for believing in him since Day 1.
“It meant the world,” Speights said. “It’s not hard for a coach to bring in a kid out of middle school and let him start in your program at one of your top positions. When they did that, there was nothing but trust between and I knew I could go with him through anything. I was all ears from that point on.”
Speights joined an ultra-elite club of remarkable rushers who topped 7,500 career yards including Billy Sims, Cedric Benson and Jacquizz Rodgers. The Mustangs’ workhorse back ranks fourth on the all-time 6A rushing list, moving past former Memorial back Bradley Stephens.
The only former Memorial ball carrier Speights couldn’t catch on that list was his older brother, Trevor, who Speights praised as a mentor.
“My brother is everything to me. As an older brother and as a football player, he’s everything to me. He shot me a text saying he was proud of me. That’s something that I have always wanted to hear and you don’t get that a lot from him. He’s going to pick on you and even if you did everything right, he’s still going to get on you for something. Just to finally hear him say, ‘Congratulations, I’m proud of you’ was the biggest relief.”
Speights will be joining a program in Navy that’s tailored around his specific skill set. The Midshipmen run the triple option, which depends on the presence of a crafty runner who can explode in open space.
But despite the obvious football fit, Speights decided to sign with the Naval Academy because of the other opportunities it would afford him away from the gridiron.
“I would say it was more about life after football. That’s something my parents preach: Football is fun, but it ends one day. You can never take a degree away from someone. I wanted to go where I can play football at a high level, but also get the best education possible and that’s the Naval Academy,” he said. “They’re welding young men and women there that are going to change the world one day. That’s what I want to be a part of.”