Western Hills High School head coach Simon Vanderpool has an understanding of what Notre Dame is looking for in prospects and he believes they’ve found that type of player – more importantly, person – in 2025 Kentucky defensive end Javeon Campbell.
“I think there’s no secret with Notre Dame, they’re looking for the all-around athlete,” Vanderpool says. “Obviously, they’re recruiting at a national level, but along with that they are looking for the complete athlete both on and off the field. I think that’s what matches up with Javeon is because he’s an unbelievable kid and it really starts at home.
“He has an unbelievable family. They’re very modest, they’re a very modest family. Although he’s obviously a special athlete, you would never know it just the way they carry themselves. That reflects how he is.”
After picking up his first offer – from Eastern Kentucky – a year ago, Campbell went on a run in January, adding offers from Notre Dame, Michigan State, Kentucky, Louisville, Vanderbilt, West Virginia and Purdue.
“Even though he’s gotten so much attention from a lot of schools, he’s still the same kid,” Vanderpool says. “He’s still the same person.
“With Notre Dame, obviously there’s no secret of the reputation with academics. Then two, spiritually. Obviously, again, those guys who are coaching there, yes they’re looking for an unbelievable athlete who’s a good football player, but they’re also looking for the whole player. I think that’s why there’s so much interest with Javeon.
“That’s where it matches up. He’s got a very high GPA, he’s got right at a 3.5 GPA. He’s actually wanting to go into Engineering. He is kind of like an old school kid in the day of social media and the glamor of things. The things that he values are still really the things that matter most and a lot of things that align with what Notre Dame has.”
And much of that goes well beyond football.
“The thing that they stress at Notre Dame is the four years is going to impact the next 40 of your life,” the coach continues. “Even if you go and play in the NFL, at some point football is going to be over for everybody. So the magnitude of what that diploma from Notre Dame means is obviously the stressor with what they have to offer. Like I said, that goes hand in hand with what he values as a person. It aligns.”
Vanderpool has sent several players Division-I recently, including current Tennessee linebacker Kalib Perry.
“I’ve seen some Power-5 guys and seen what it takes athletically and physically,” he says. “I think when you look at Javeon, his upside might be the highest upside that I’ve been around just because you have a mix of pure size and strength, but with athleticism and speed.
“When you look at championship programs at that level, that’s the difference. There are some unbelievable athletes everywhere you go, no matter what level you’re at. But the difference is the guys up front. What’s really making him so recruitable is the fact that he could play multiple positions.”
Vanderpool says Campbell could play the three or five-technique in college.
“He is right now 6-5, 260, but he’s only lifted in his life for a year,” the coach says. “He’s just naturally strong. He’s naturally big. He’s very athletic.”
After scoring 40 points in back to back games, Campbell dropped 31 last Friday.
“ You watch him on the basketball court, he’s running up and down the court and dunking,” says Vanderpool. “That’s just what makes him so special. Like I said, he’s got all the physical characteristics of what it takes to play inside on the d-line, but then at the same time, he’s a phenomenal athlete. I mean it’s special.
“He’s got the measurables too. Right now at his position, he would be right there with what was in the NFL Draft last year with the guys that went to the combine. He’s got the 83-inch wingspan and the 10-inch hands.”
With the recent flurry of interest, Campbell is just starting to dive into the recruiting process in full. He’s made recent trips to Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Michigan State and Notre Dame.
“He’s not been somebody who went to all these different camps or all these different campuses,” the coach says. “He’s just now getting a really good feel of what it is that a Division-I program looks like because he, he’s never seen any of it before. He’s not been around any of it. For him, this is all brand new. He’s just been to a limited amount of places.”
He’s planning to return to South Bend and get to some other places this spring before narrowing his list and scheduling official visits with a final decision before his senior season.
Notre Dame will be in it until the end, according to Vanderpool.
“Oh yeah. I know they had talked about scheduling an official visit the last time that Coach (Al) Washington was here. They haven’t set a date on that yet, but I know that’s already kind of been in discussion. So I definitely think that that’s going to be somewhere he’ll do an OV.”
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