COLUMBIA — Luke Campbell stepped quietly into the Fr. Tolton High School weight room and headed to the squat rack.
Few on the football team had seen Campbell before he walked toward the metal bar, but to the amazement of his new teammates, he quickly pounded 10 reps of 415 pounds.
"Like it was nothing," recalled Will Tindal, a junior running back and middle linebacker for the Trailblazers.
At 6-foot-2-inches, 330 pounds, Campbell, 15, is now the defensive lineman on Tolton's football team. Campbell transferred to Tolton from Hickman High School for academics this school year, and Trailblazers football coach Chad Masters said he’s already developed into a great teammate.
"Him and some of the other kids and some of the linemen have meshed right away," Masters said after practice Tuesday. "It’s like they’ve been long-lost friends."
Campbell collided with football in the fourth grade while he wrestled his kid brother along Garth Avenue. A man noticed Campbell's toughness and asked him to join the Columbia Raiders youth football team. Campbell's parents signed him up.
"He loves it," his mother, Tiffany Campbell, said. "It helps him embrace his size and feel more confident in himself."
But the large lineman has another appreciation: art. He likes to sketch in his spare time — mainly cartoons — drawing inspiration from “Calvin and Hobbes” and “Garfield.”
When Luke Campbell was first starting to draw, Tiffany Campbell said she and her husband, Chris, thought their son was tracing images, but later realized he was learning on his own. She said Campbell likes to give his drawings to his friends.
And he's found plenty of friends in the short time since he's been at Tolton.
Campbell said he loves being in the trenches and introducing himself to opposing linemen.
He said it's been easy to fit in.
“I’ve only been here two months now, but I feel like I’ve been here as long as the seniors,” Campbell said. “I really like it here.”
Campbell said he hopes to either go into graphic design or the NFL one day.
As far as developing into a big guy, Campbell, who grew up in Jonesboro, Ark., said he didn’t really know how it happened. He said he doesn’t eat as much as his friends and enjoys oatmeal and bananas every day for breakfast.
“I guess being raised in Arkansas, that cornbread got to me,” he said.
Supervising editor is Eliza Smith.