The fall and rise of Cass Tech's Jayru Campbell

Posted at 10:38 PM, Feb 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-27 23:24:16-05

Tonight we go beyond the headlines and return to a story that stirred up quite a bit of controversy two years ago: a former high school football star who landed in jail after body slamming a security guard.

Tonight I am happy to return with an update on a young man who is turning his life around.

It's the body slam that sent  Jayru Campbell's high school football career at Cass Tech into a death spiral, his dream to play at Michigan State erased.

Then, when surveillance footage of an altercation with his girlfriend came to light, Jayru ended up behind bars - all bets were against him.

Campbell says, "I was young. I was lost. I used to take my anger and frustration out on different things. I was just living wrong."

Jayru grew up dodging bullets, gangs and drug dealers and survived in a home shattered by domestic violence.

"Growing up, my dad did 7 years in prison, from 3 until I was 10," he says.

When his dad returned from prison, their relationship went from loving to violent.

Campbell says, "Him cussing me out, putting his hands on me."

Jayru bottled that anger, but it never stopped simmering - at home, in school or on the football field.

"It was a lot of times in my life when I did not talk about my problems," he says. "I'd just snap or it would build up and it would just come out."

That anger so disruptive a stint in jail along with therapy and anger management classes may have saved his life.

I asked Jayru, what did he learn from his experience in jail?

He told me patience, number one patience.

"All the stuff that you doing that can get you in there, it ain't worth it," he says. "You know, on the holidays without my mom, dad, brothers it seemed so different."

Once free, Jayru found himself out of high school with too much time on his hands. Fortunately his mom delivered some tough love.

"It all just started with God, cause when I tell you, when I was driving her crazy, she ended up kicking me out of the house, 'you can't stay here no more'."

Fellow teammates from Cass Tech mentioned a coach from Garden City community college in Kansas City, Jeff Sims, who also had little contact with his own dad growing up, because he went to jail for attempted murder.

He decided to dedicate his life to helping young people who struggled like he did.

Coach Sims was willing to give Jayru a second chance at life and redemption on the football field.

"When that coach called me, he told me he'd get me my high school diploma and I could start college courses just like that and I don't have to worry about nothing," Campbell says. "Basically all he told me to do was come down there."

As part of his probation Jayru had to take domestic violence classes. At 18 he was in a class with men ages 35 and older.

"Just being in that class and hearing them talk about their situations, as far as their wives, that helped a lot too," he says. "It opened my eyes."

In Kansas City, Jayru was put through hard knocks on the field and in the classroom and it paid off. Their team went 11 and 0 this year and finished first among all junior colleges in the nation and in May he'll graduate with his associates degree.

I asked Jayru to tell me what he learned from his coach at Garden City, and he said he learned if you take care of what's in front of you at that moment, the next thing is going to be a lot easier.

His coach's motto, "Worry about right now at that moment."

While he still has dreams of one day playing in the NFL, he has a more important message when young men like him face their darkest days.

"It's never too late," he says. "You can always turn it around. You can always turn it around. Tomorrow is a new beginning."

Jayru is making his final selection to play college football next year in the coming months.