Sobs echoed around the Gusman Hall as Chris Campbell’s smiling face faded out at the end of a short video shown at his memorial service last Thursday.
Campbell, a University of Miami linebacker, died last Saturday morning in a car accident. He was 21.
UM students, ‘Canes fans, and Campbell’s friends, teammates, and family, more than filled the auditorium to its 600 capacity at the morning memorial.
The memorial had a distinctly Christian theme as Campbell’s teammates read Psalms 27, and a passage from Thessalonians. They referred to themselves as Campbell’s fellow brothers in Christ.
“We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him,” they quoted from 1 Thessalonians.
Notable members of the college and professional football community who knew Campbell, including former UM coach Butch Davis and former UM teammates playing in the NFL, were present to show their respect.
The stage was decorated with Campbell’s No. 48 football jersey, floral arrangements and his photograph on an easel. Most of the speeches made in memory of Campbell came from members of the UM football community, such as former coach Davis; fullback, Najeh Davenport; safety, James Lewis; linebacker, Howard Clark; and linebackers’ coach, Vernon Hargreaves.
Speeches from Campbell’s brother, Jacob, and his fiancee, Tombi Bell, also honored Campbell as a gentle giant with an unforgettable handshake.
“If you had the opportunity to shake hands with him, no good. He had a crushing handshake. Don’t do it,” Coker said.
“It came to a point, you didn’t shake Chris’ hand no more,” Davenport said.
“To know him was to love him,” Belle said. “I will be okay, because you taught me to be strong,” she said, as if speaking directly to Campbell.
Coker announced that Campbell, who was to graduate from UM in May, will be awarded post-humously a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, much to the appreciation of the audience.
“Chris wouldn’t have expected this much outpouring of love from the community,” Bell said. “He used to say I was his only friend.”
Campbell’s life touched the people he met, not only because of his athletic talent but because of the way he lived his life, his friends said.
“If you’re doing something wrong, stop doing it because you have a guardian angel called Chris Campbell looking after you,” one mourner said.
“No matter how much you did to him, he did what he wanted to do for you,” his roommate said.
The audience laughed and cried in earnest as Campbell’s friends related their personal experiences with him.
“He even came into my mom’s life,” Davenport said, referring to when his mother phoned him, crying uncontrollably over Campbell’s death.
“The college experience. What happens in these four years. You’re supposed to grow. Well, he [Campbell] grew,” Hargreaves said, as he rubbed his temples, struggling to maintain his composure.