Random chance has seemingly ruled Joseph Campbell's life the last nine months.
Having recovered from an operation on his shoulder following his junior year, Campbell was hoping to catch the eye of Division-I recruiters during his senior season as the starting quarterback at Garces Memorial High School.
But a week before the team was set to host a preseason scrimmage, Campbell woke up feeling sharp pains in his right side. Hoping they'd disappear on their own, the pains became more severe in the proceeding days, and Campbell was admitted to the hospital with what was revealed to be a punctured lung.
His problems intensified from there.
Attempts to inject fluid into Campbell's lung were unsuccessful, as it would start to leak out after getting 60 percent to 70 percent full. Further tests revealed he'd contracted valley fever, which ravaged his body badly enough that he lost 25 pounds in two weeks.
"It was all just random to me," said Campbell, who was hospitalized for 10 days. "It just happened and I don't know how. I was more mad than scared because I just wasn't understanding how this happened."
To make matters worse, attempts to put the lost weight back on proved exceedingly difficult.
“There was a period where I could basically eat whatever I wanted and I could not gain any weight," he said.
Campbell was able to return to the field after missing just two games, throwing for 1,960 yards and accounting for 21 touchdowns. But by his own admission, he was nowhere near 100 percent, and his season ended without a single D-I offer.
As the calendar flipped to 2020, Campbell was prepared to go the JUCO route, expecting to begin his college career at Bakersfield College in the fall. But another seemingly random occurrence, this one of a much more positive variety, changed his path again.
Working out with former Garces standout Chris Coleman, now a wide receiver at Fresno State, Campbell and his quarterback coach Tyler Ferguson learned the Bulldogs were looking to add a preferred walk-on to bolster their depth at quarterback.
Ferguson, who began working with Campbell in 2019, helped him put together a throwing tape to send to Bulldog coaches, who liked what they saw and soon made an offer the quarterback wasted no time accepting.
After years or virtual silence on the recruiting trail, Campbell said it was exhilarating to see things snap into place in a matter of days.
“This all happened in like a week’s span," he said. "All this transpired and it definitely caught me off guard but I was definitely excited to hear the news.”
Campbell will be one of two Bakersfield quarterbacks on the Fresno roster, joining Bakersfield Christian grad Braden Wingle, who also committed as a preferred walk-on in January.
He'll also continue a long-standing family tradition of playing Division-I football, that started in the 1980s. His uncle Byron Campbell played at Fresno State while his father Jack played at Cal Poly.
The next generation kept the tradition alive, as Joseph's older brothers Jack and Grant both saw action at the Power-Five level. Jack played at Texas Tech before transferring to Cornell, while Grant was an All-Big 12 honorable mention linebacker at Baylor in 2015.
“It was always a goal of mine as a kid to reach that level of college football," Joseph said. "It means a lot to me to be able to continue the tradition.”
Ferguson, a former Ridgeview star who had a brief stop in the NFL with Tennessee, believes Fresno is getting a total package quarterback, who showed major toughness by "playing almost a full season on basically a lung-and-a-half" while being smart enough to run a Ram offense where he was routinely asked to call plays at the line of scrimmage based on what looks the defense was giving him.
"I think he's going to be ready as soon as he gets (to Fresno)," Ferguson said. "His football IQ is absolutely off the charts (and) he's kind of on another level toughness-wise than a lot of people. I don't think he'll have any problems adjusting."
In more than a year of working together, Ferguson says he's only recently felt that Campbell was at 100 percent physically.
Campbell agrees with this assessment, and understands why he may have flown under the radar of so many Division-I coaches. When his college career begins, he's eager to show them what they missed out on.
"People don't know about me," he said. "I think a lot of people are going to ask 'Where'd this kid come from?' I can't wait to show them what I can do."