Damon Campbell is thinking about others in everything he does.
The state champion wrestler and North Hall High senior keeps his grades high to make his father Tracy proud.
He was also constantly grinding on the wrestling mat to make a positive impact on his teammates.
He also flips hamburgers at Dairy Queen to save up money and to be able to take his girlfriend out to dinner.
“His empathy is a trait that is a strong trait of his,” North Hall wrestling coach David Nichols said. “His father’s always been very supportive and Damon is just a great kid.”
Rarely, is Campbell putting himself first.
He doesn’t brag and has handled every bit of success since claiming the 145-pound state championship with grace and humility.
His phone has been going non-stop since he took the individual state championship in Class 3A — likely his final time every wrestling competitively.
For Campbell, it was more about the journey of becoming a cohesive unit with some of his best friends, en route to also earning a team state championship last month.
The relationship was symbiotic as Campbell was part of a close wrestling community at North Hall.
“My team has meant so much to me here at North Hall,” said Campbell, who has already been accepted to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “The camaraderie is why I wanted to wrestle.”
Even though Campbell is utterly selfless, reluctant to say anything that would come across as braggadocious, he’s still elated to know he accomplished such a special moment: winning a state championship.
What Campbell remembers most is looking around the Macon Centerplex, knowing that so many people (family, friends and church members) came to watch him compete three hours from home.
Late at night on February 11, Campbell stepped to the mat and wrapped up a 3-1 victory against the same wrestler he faced at the Area championship. With only seconds left in the match, and the hard work complete, Campbell was able to get back to his feet with the realization setting in that 12 years of wrestling were going to be capped with a state championship.
“It was a humbling experience,” Campbell said about winning the state title. “I couldn’t think of a better way of ending my wrestling career at North Hall.”
Nichols said Campbell, who is also a team captain for the North Hall soccer team, is just as good of a person as he is an athlete.
“Damon’s a great competitor and is an extremely athletic kid,” North Hall’s coach said. “And he’s got a winner’s mentality.”
Now that wrestling is finished, Campbell has the world at his finger tips with his appointment to attend Air Force.
Just a year ago, North Hall’s state champion wrestler didn’t envision even going to college, even though he always maintained high grades.
His plan was to become a police officer.
“At the time, I didn’t even want to go to college,” said Campbell, who leaves for Air Force in June. “I was going to be a cop and live in Gainesville.”
Then Campbell and Nichols had a conversation that changed his future after a routine summer conditioning workout.
Nichols knew that Campbell had strong leadership skills and wanted to help others.
Academic success was also working in Campbell’s favor.
So, North Hall’s wrestling coach threw it out there that he should pursue attending one of the Service Academies.
That stuck with Campbell and he started doing his own research.
He said the first real step was getting his name to all of them and got the ball rolling in the application process.
Slowly, he started checking off all the boxes and attending Air Force was really looking like a reality.
The final step was the nomination board meeting at the office of Rep. Doug Collins in Gainesville, along with a table of six Air Force colonels to handle Campbell’s review.
“That’s the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life,” said Campbell, who remembers a worker outside giving him a Powerade to drink because he looked so wide-eyed before his interview. “I was sweating so bad before I went in there. But after it was over, I felt good about it.”
Then it became a waiting game.
Until January 19.
He remembers getting ready to leave work at Dairy Queen and glancing at his email, noticing he had a message from Air Force.
Campbell decided to get home with his lunch before looking to see if it was good news or bad news.
Once he got home, Campbell opened the message.
It was the best news of his life.
Campbell had officially been accepted to Air Force.
“I remember I was sitting there crying with my cheeseburger,” Campbell said, recalling the moment like it just happened yesterday. “I was able to tell my father that night.”
Over the next couple days, Campbell was able to share the news with everyone about his future plans.
Nichols was one who was especially proud of his senior wrestler.
“Damon has done it all on his own,” Nichols said. “That’s something to be valued. I respect him so much for the hard work he’s put into getting into Air Force.”
And now that Campbell has a military future, his plan is to eventually become a pilot.
This is all something that started from hard work and casual conversations in the wrestling room at North Hall for Campbell.