Dan Campbell

Former 12th Man Cullen Gillaspia works with Dan Campbell during a tight end catching drill.

There’s a saying at Texas A&M that the Aggie Network is strong. It’s widespread, and it can help both current and former students in many ways, including in the search for employment. For a few Aggies, one of the biggest days of their job hunt process happened Tuesday at the McFerrin Athletic Center.

A&M football held its annual Pro Day, in which professional scouts from across the country visited Aggieland to find eligible players for the upcoming NFL Draft. Representatives from all 32 NFL teams, an NFL general manager and an Alliance of American Football general manager were in attendance.

Seventeen players from the 2018 Texas A&M football team showcased their talents in hopes of landing on a professional football roster. One of the scouts in attendance was Dan Campbell, Class of 1999, who is currently an assistant head coach and tight-end position coach for the New Orleans Saints.

“It feels great [to be back in College Station]; I don’t recognize this place,” Campbell said. “All the growth that has taken place and all the development — it’s pretty special.”

The night before the Pro Day, Campbell said he was able to give advice to tight-ends Jace Sternberger and Trevor Wood as well as former 12th Man Cullen Gillaspia about the draft process because he’s been in their shoes before.

“I flew in last night and met with those guys,” Campbell said. “I got to sit with them in the classroom and watch a little film.”

Campbell says he does this to help players relax before the start of a very stressful process during Pro Day.

“You get their personality to come out a little bit,” Campbell said. “You get a little more comfortable with them and they open up to you a little bit — then you feed them steak. … I think that helps.”

Sternberger, who played for the Aggies for one season, said he was able to meet Campbell in Indianapolis earlier this season. However, being able to meet with him again at their alma mater helped Sternberger feel a lot better heading into Pro Day.

“I had a formal meeting with him at the [NFL] Combine,” Sternberger said. “The emotions were a little more intense. They told me he was an Aggie. Even though I haven’t been here a long time, I felt assurance like ‘okay, and at least I’m not as worried.’”

Campbell was one of the few coaches who was actively working with the players during position drills. For Sternberger, it was an opportunity of a lifetime to work with someone like Campbell.

“I feel like any time you get to work with someone who is doing the profession you dream of and they’ve done it for a long time in the NFL, I feel that it’s hard as a player to ever question someone like that,” Sternberger said. “You work your whole life to do what they’re doing, so how could you not listen to them or enjoy the moment.”

During Pro Day, Gillaspia showcased his athleticism at several different positions — as a linebacker, fullback, running back with the special teams and at tight end. According to Gillasipa, having someone like Campbell coaching him through a new position like tight end made him feel a lot more confident.

“It was good to have him on my side,” Gillaspia said. “We had dinner, so we got to talk. He knew I wasn’t a tight end. I hadn’t run that stuff before, so he was working with me, kind of telling me the footwork and the stuff to do. It was good to have someone on your side.”

A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher was in attendance for the Aggies’ Pro Day, watching his first group of A&M players make the transition to the professional level. Fisher said Tuesday was the first time he met Campbell, and he liked seeing what an active presence he had on the field.

“He’s a down to earth guy,” Fisher said. “Guys that have played it, coached it and been there a long time they can make you feel at ease like that. [Campbell is] very successful in everything he’s done. Not just as a player here, but as a coach.”

Only time will tell if Aggie Network will play a role in these recent A&M players’ journey to NFL. However, Campbell said if the Saints were considering taking an A&M player in the NFL Draft, he would not hesitate to argue for one of the three players he met this week.

“I’d take all three of them,” Campbell said. “I thought they represented themselves well.”

Angel Franco is a telecommunication media studies senior and sports editor for The Battalion.

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