Nov. 21, 2013
By Lauren McMillin
Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Kicking a football in front of 60,000 people isn't easy. The thin line between a good kick and a bad one rests in the hand - or rather, foot - of the kicker. Despite the immense pressure, it helps to have a friend by your side. Senior kicker Andrew Ritter and senior punter Tyler Campbell have just that.
Roommates since freshman year, Ritter, from Jackson, and Campbell, from Little Rock, Ark., have developed a strong friendship both on and off the field.
"It's so crazy, because when you look back, it seems like yesterday that we were moving into the dorm together and when we were getting recruited together," Ritter said. "It's been crazy to see us grow with our personal relationship and also with our relationships on this team and our roles on this team. It's been really cool. We're roommates when we travel, and we've been through so many ups and downs together. I know he's got my back and I've got his, and that's really special."
"On top of that, we have the same major," Campbell added. "We took all the same classes, now we're in grad school together, so we've been close the whole time."
Ritter and Campbell both graduated last spring, Ritter with a degree in Managerial Finance and Campbell with degrees in Managerial Finance and Accounting.
In addition to sharing a major and a room, Ritter and Campbell both sat out last season, making the decision to redshirt as seniors.
"It was really cool how it worked out," Ritter said. "I'd always wanted to kick field goals at Ole Miss. That's what I came here to do. Spring of 2012, I had this idea in my head that I was going to approach (Coach Freeze) and ask him if it would be okay if I redshirted, because I wanted to have the opportunity to kick field goals. I felt I could help the team more playing that role. It worked out, so I'm happy to still be here."
While Ritter's decision to redshirt was not difficult, Campbell's decision didn't come until just before the season began.
"That was one of the toughest parts about redshirting, not knowing whether or not Tyler was going to do it, because of the fact that we came in together, we lived together, we've gone through so much together, and we wanted to go out together," Ritter said. "We're still glad to be here, playing as seniors. We're having a lot of fun."
"Year two (under Coach Freeze), there's even more excitement, the ball's still rolling," Campbell said. "I knew that would be the best decision, and I'm glad I did it."
Sitting out a season gave Ritter and Campbell the opportunity to reach their dreams, something that may not have been possible otherwise. The fact that they got to do it together helped them feel that they'd made the right decision.
"That definitely made it a lot easier," Campbell said. "We came in together in the same class. Being recruited, I always knew he wanted to place kick, and he never really got the opportunity the first four years we were here, so I'm glad it worked out for him, too. He's done really well this year, and I'm proud of him."
Having an entire year as an off-season gave Ritter and Campbell the chance to improve their craft, and their hard work has certainly paid off. This became especially evident in Ritter's game-winning field goal against LSU, a moment that, up until then, was always a dream.
"It's just so surreal to me, because I grew up in an Ole Miss family, and I just know how important that rivalry is to this fan base," Ritter said. "As a kid, I would lay in bed and dream about kicking a game-winning field goal against LSU. It's definitely a great moment, and it's something I'll have for the rest of my life."
With only a few games left in the season, Ritter and Campbell predict that the Rebels will finish strong.
"I feel like the off week came at a really good time to get people healthy again, Campbell said. "Considering how brutal the first half of our schedule was, I think we came away pretty good, as far as the record goes, with wins and losses. I think if we get some people healthy, I see us achieving a lot more."
Going to a bowl game is certainly on the radar, and as seniors, Ritter and Campbell hope to leave the team on a positive note.
"It's kind of a redundant feeling at this point, actually," Campbell said. "Last year I thought I was going to be a senior. Now I just feel like a leader, and I hope I do lead, especially me and Andrew. We have a bunch of other kickers that are freshmen and younger walk-ons, so we just want to set an example for them, and hopefully we'll leave them in good shoes."
"It's crazy, because it's like yesterday I was walking in the door as a freshman," Ritter added. "This is our last chance to be on this team and our last chance to lead these young guys. We want the success at Ole Miss to just continue to grow, and if we can have a positive role in that, then that would be a great note to leave on."
After earning their MBA's, Ritter and Campbell hope for a chance to play in the NFL, but after their football careers come to a close, they both plan to enter the field of business. Until then, they still have footballs to kick for Rebel Nation.