How Waffle House helped Tennessee football land Miami transfer John Campbell

Knoxville News Sentinel
Miami transfer John Campbell had some good reasons for coming to Tennessee: Waffle House, Neyland Stadium and Joe Milton.
And, notably, he ranks them in that order.
“I came out here (to Knoxville on an official visit), and it’s a city,” Campbell said. “And then we ate some food. The food is good.
“They got Waffle House. That’s the place I like. At the U (Miami), there wasn’t really no Waffle House. It was like 40 minutes away.”
Fortunately, Knoxville is smothered and covered in what Campbell loves. There are seven Waffle House locations within 10 miles of the UT campus.
Campbell, a 6-foot-5, 320-pounder, is the leader for the starting left tackle spot in preseason practice. On Monday, he spoke to the media for the first time since transferring to UT in January.
He was sincere and hilarious in describing why he chose the Vols over Florida, Florida State and Southern Cal as one of the most coveted players in the transfer portal.
“I’m not gonna lie. I (initially) shot down Tennessee,” he said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘I’m not gonna go to Tennessee.’ I wanted to go somewhere else. But it just felt like the right decision with the people.”
His favorite Waffle House order
Campbell, an Orlando native, said he had a familiarity with coach Josh Heupel and his staff because they previously coached at Central Florida.
He also had a relationship with Milton, UT's starting quarterback, because they were high school rivals.
And he wanted to play on the big stage of the SEC to help his NFL draft stock.
But Campbell's love for Waffle House stood out, especially as he talked about his favorite orders there.
“Man, look, I’m gonna get the all-star special,” he said. “Or we gonna get a waffle sandwich. You don’t know about that. It’s on the secret menu.”
If Campbell didn’t already have a name, image and likeness deal with Waffle House, an offer may be on its way.
Miami crowds couldn't compare to Neyland Stadium
Granted, Campbell didn’t do a lot of research on UT.
Before he visited Knoxville, he thought the East Tennessee terrain was flat. He was surprised to see the Smoky Mountains during his official visit.
But UT fans also had a hand in wooing Campbell. He said their Southern hospitality and their sheer numbers at Neyland Stadium on game days played a part.
He loved his friendly interactions with people in Knoxville.
“Knoxville is a cool place. It’s chill,” he said. “It’s real different, like the people. In Miami, if you see somebody, they walk with their head down and right past you. But here they’ll have a conversation with you and see how you’re doing. That’s one thing I really like.”
Campbell’s eyes also widened at the enormous crowds for UT home games.
In 2022, Neyland Stadium averaged 100,532 per game. That’s almost double Miami’s average of 54,964 in home attendance.
“It’s just the difference in the fans, like these (UT) games are sold out at like a hundred and whatever thousand,” Campbell said. “At Miami, we got the Heat, we got the Dolphins, we got all these teams. For fans, it’s too much.
“And at our (Miami) games, there’s not a lot of people there. I feel like the SEC is a big stage to play on, and it gets my exposure up there.”

Players mentioned in this article

John Campbell Jr.

Josh Heupel

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