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Jacket wideout speeds to huge second season

As a speedy but raw freshman, all Kelly Campbell wanted was a chance to contribute. Now, as a sage sophomore, he sets his sights on bigger and better things: A 1,000 yard receiving season, a national championship for Georgia Tech and a couple of steak biscuits from Mrs. Winter's Restaurant. Don't forget to throw in some hash browns and a couple of cinnamon swirls on the side.

Campbell's 1999 campaign easily could be labeled an explosion. Eruption and outburst fit as well. But perhaps the Yellow Jacket wideout's banner year is best characterized as a breakout, in more ways than one.

The Mays High School product landed his first break when Yellow Jacket Coach George O'Leary announced Campbell would start opposite Dez White at wide receiver. Break number two arrived in the imposing image of 225-pound Florida State linebacker Brian Allen, who clocked Campbell hard enough to shatter the sophomore's jaw. So much for solid food, at least for a month. So much for Mrs. Winter's, Campbell's restaurant of choice.

"Allen hit me in the air," Campbell said. "His helmet came up and hit me right in the face, but I'm eating regular now."

At least defensive coordinators know Campbell is back to normal. Unfortunately for them, Campbell's return to customary eating habits hasn't triggered any on-the-field changes, where the former high school track star continues to devour opponents, blazing his way to team highs in receptions, yards and touchdown catches. Campbell's 747 yards and six scores have upstaged even the nationally hyped White, advertised as a probable first round NFL pick.

"I didn't think I would have such success so early, but I knew that at some point I would because when they recruited me, they told me they needed wide receivers to come in and play right away," Campbell said.

That "some point" showed up rather quickly. But then again, when you're athletic enough to triple jump your way to a state championship and medal in three other track and field events, not to mention scoring 15 touchdowns and 22 two-point conversions in your senior year alone, staying off the field becomes increasingly difficult.

"Kelly Campbell is an asset to this team in whatever he does, whether that's receiving, running or blocking," said Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech quarterback and Heisman Trophy frontrunner. "With he and Dez both lining up outside, it makes us real dangerous."

Tack on little Joe, a petit 5-foot-10 terror of a field general, and the Jackets boast the most potent offense in the college game, ranking first nationally in total offense and scoring.

Campbell, like any good wide receiver, knows the difference between success and failure often hinges on the signal caller. In Hamilton, Tech may have the best.

"Joe does a lot," Campbell said. "He talks to the team, gets us pumped up for the game and shows a lot of leadership. When we're in a rut, he continues to push us to get better."

The Jackets have responded to the Napoleon-like Hamilton, posting a 6-1 mark and a number seven national ranking, their highest position in the polls since claiming the National Championship in 1991.

Hamilton's pursuit of college football's most coveted individual prize could affect his teammates in one of two ways: Either the Hamilton media circus will alleviate pressure from the rest of the squad, or it will detract from their ability to concentrate on the game at hand. Campbell chooses the former.

"I don't know too much about the Heisman," Campbell said. "We focus on every game, one at a time. We just let whatever comes to us come. The receivers came together and said this year we're going to do the best we can to make Joe look good in order to win the Heisman."

Good understates the truth, but after his jawbreaking encounter with Allen and the Seminoles, Campbell knows better than to bite off more than he can chew.