Former Buc Campbell signs to play professional soccer

Joe Avento • Jun 6, 2015 at 1:00 AM

Jonny Campbell’s quest to play professional soccer has taken a turn in the right direction.

Campbell, a former walk-on for the East Tennessee State University team, signed a contract with the Charlotte Independence of the United Soccer League last week. His signing was announced on Friday.

He’d been trying to hook up with a professional team for two years since graduating from ETSU, where he excelled during his senior year once he got the chance to play significant minutes.

“This has definitely been a journey, to say the least,” said Campbell, who signed as a center back. “It’s always been a grind. But that’s how it is. You have to keep faith in yourself and keep moving forward. I’m very grateful to get this opportunity.”

Campbell’s signing finally gives him some stability after a whirwind spring that saw him have trials with the Seattle Sounders FC2 and the Orange County Blues in Irvine, California. He spent last year with the Philadelphia Fury of the new American Soccer League.

“This is a relief,” Campbell said. “I’ve traveled so many places. They were beautiful places and nice trips, but obviously the goal was to sign. It was very nice to put pen to paper and sign my name to the contract.”

After returning from California, Campbell figured he’d take a break from soccer for a while. But something made him send out one more email, to Charlotte. When the team responded, he was on his way to North Carolina.

A two-week trial period went well enough for the team to offer him a deal.

“It’s crazy,” said Campbell, who played at Science Hill High School. “I was kind of bummed so I thought ‘I’m just going to enjoy myself and step away from soccer for a bit.’

“I just sent out that one email. Usually when I do that, I sent out a lot more than that.”

USL teams are often associated with MLS squads. Charlotte is aligned with the Colorado Rapids.

The Independence took over for the Charlotte Eagles, who moved down to the amateur Premier Development League. Campbell’s former teammate, David Geno, played for the Eagles when they were a pro club.

Another of Campbell’s former teammates, Aaron Schoenfeld, is in his fourth season with the Columbus Crew in MLS.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Campbell said.

The Independence (2-3-3) plays Sunday at Richmond. Campbell isn’t on the squad for that game.

“I want to get in there,” Campbell said. “It’ll be good to get in and start competing for a spot.”

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