Football Millikan

FEATURE: Campbell Family Matters For Millikan Football

Photo by JJ Fiddler – De’Juan Campbell Sr. (left) with his sons Qu’Juan and De’Juan Jr.

The Campbell brothers both love football, and only one of them is able to play the game.

Cerebral palsy stopped De’Juan Campbell Jr. from ever taking the field. However, his love for the sport has brought his family closer while motivating younger brother Qu’Juan Campbell to be one of the best running backs in the Moore League.

“That’s my DNA,” said De’Juan Jr. of watching his younger brother Qu’Juan run the ball for Millikan. “I share a room with that dude. Even though I can’t play, he’s doing it. And he’s doing what we both love, what we all love in the house. So he represents us.”

Four members of the Campbell family will be on the Millikan sideline tonight when the Rams travel to Gahr. De’Juan Jr. is a coaches assistant along side his dad, De’Juan Sr., who is the running backs coach. Their younger sister, Juan’nique, works with the athletic training staff.

“Honestly, this is beyond my wildest dreams,” De’Juan Sr. said of having his family around him on Friday nights.

“I never thought anyone would have enough confidence in De’Juan to let him partially live his dream by coaching football,” De’Juan Sr. said.

De’Juan Jr., 20, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was six months old, and doctors told his parents he would be bound to a wheelchair without the ability to walk or talk.

“The battles were emotional,” De’Juan Sr. said. “We kept faith in God, and just asked him to walk with our son. We still go through challenges. I’m just happy he’s here and happy.”

De’Juan Jr. grew up watching as much football as he could while learning to be mobile with an ability aide gait trainer and orthotic devices. Younger Qu’Juan would routinely fall asleep in front of the TV or at games, but De’Juan Jr. was always looking for his next football fix.

“We’d come home from games and De’Juan would want to watch film,” De’Juan Sr. said. “This is his passion. If you take football away from him, I think you take life.”

All of the Campbell children have attended Millikan, and De’Juan Jr. got his first chance to coach football as a freshman team assistant in his last year at the school.

“I wasn’t blessed to be able to play football, so I put that love into coaching,” De’Juan Jr. said. “I love the team aspect and relationships with other people. Football teaches life lessons. It teaches you how to grow up and be part of the world, and have a successful life.”

Having the 2016 freshman team trust him gave De’Juan Jr. the confidence to stay on the Millikan sideline, and second-year coach Justin Utupo didn’t hesitate to include De’Juan Jr. with the team for the last two years. Today, De’Juan Jr. can move up and down the Millikan sideline with the help of a rolling stand-up walker.

De’Juan Campbell Jr. and the Millikan football family

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“The most important thing we wanted to establish with our culture here is family,” Utupo said. “Family is the foundation. That’s what it’s all about. We spend so much time away from our real families for football, that your teammates and coaches become part of your family.”

De’Juan Sr. played football at Crenshaw High before he and his wife, Debrina, moved their young family to Long Beach where their love for football blossomed. Qu’Juan started playing Lakewood Pop Warner football as an offensive lineman.

“I was his coach and I told him he needed to get faster if he wanted to carry the ball,” De’Juan Sr. said. “It wasn’t until he ran track at Millikan that he got his speed.”

Qu’Juan averaged 6.8 yards per carry last season as a junior while scoring eight touchdowns. He was named to the All-Moore League team, is a 3.6 GPA student, and has received some scholarship attention from small universities around the country. However, Qu’Juan admits he wouldn’t be anything without his family.

“(De’Juan Jr.) always talks about football and studies it and that made me want to go harder,” Qu’Juan said. “He gets awards and everybody likes him. I want to be like him one day.”

It’s apropos that De’Juan Jr.’s favorite football player is Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton because they both have luminous smiles are are quick to laugh.

“You find so many people unhappy who have everything physical,” De’Juan Sr. said. “When you see a kid like De’Juan who wants to play football, and he can’t, and his legs aren’t strong enough to carry him. There’s no need for us to be unhappy when you see a guy like that smiling. I guarantee you that everyday you see him he’s going to be smiling.”

De’Juan Jr. is currently studying communications at Long Beach State, and he works with the college radio station. He said his dream job is to be on the NFL Network.

“I took it as motivation,” De’Juan Jr. said of his physical disability. “I’m very fortunate to be able to do the things that I do. I know there are people less fortunate than me, so I use that fuel to power me up.”

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.