Speaking of Sports: Coco awaits NFL Draft tonight; Jackson Campbell to wait another year
By Jim Turner

Posted on April 23, 2020 11:09 AM

During this era of a complete sports shutdown, this weekend’s NFL Draft is a most welcome relief. The NFL Draft—especially the first round—is always Must See TV, but this year it has taken on the role of Isolation Stress and Depression Reliever.

The later rounds will be of special interest in Russellville, since former Panther star back Ta’Corian ‘Coco’ Darden has made himself available to continue his football career.

Sportscaster Jeff Lightsy Jr. of WBKO television in Bowling Green did a virtual interview with Darden recently which talked about his experiencing the highs and lows of his career in WKU football.

A defensive back and kick returner, Coco went from a walk-on under a future Big Ten head coach to 1) a full-scholarship player, to 2) experiencing two down seasons for the Hilltopper team under an unfortunate coaching hire, to 3) earning Sun Belt Conference postseason honors, to 4) being named team captain, to 5) starring in the closing minutes of a First Responder Bowl win as a senior under a bright new coach, and 6) to being the first Topper ever selected to play in the Hula Bowl in Hawaii.

Coco and other senior standouts were preparing for their Pro Day at WKU to show off their skills, but it had to be canceled because of the COVID-19 shutdown. So Darden did the next best thing by self-organizing his own Pro Day on video. He ran a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash for the scouts to see. He is very strong to counter-balance his lack of height, and he showed that in the video as well.

Here is the link to the 13 Sports video:


Campbell to skip this draft

Logan Countians could have been waiting for news from another pro draft his summer, but that wait now will be a year or two in the making.

Logan County High School graduate Jackson Campbell probably would be drafted this summer as a professional baseball catcher, but he has elected to return to Belmont University for his senior season.

D1Baseball has recognized Campbell as one of the top 50 junior hitters in NCAA Baseball.

With the rankings based on analytical perspectives and four weeks of 2020 statistics, Campbell is ranked No. 25 overall. 

Campbell came in with an overall rating of 88.2 and had a plate discipline rating of 78.8, according to D1Baseball. Additionally, D1Baseball gave Campbell a rating of 78.5 for hit ability and an 89.3 for game power. 

According to D1Baseball, plate discipline is a measure of how well a batter controls the strike zone. Hit ability measures a batter's ability to hit and reach base while game power is based on a player producing extra-base hits and getting to showcase the power shown in batting practice. 

Campbell reached the top 10 in six offensive categories in the OVC and hit six home runs, good for 19th in NCAA Baseball in 2020. The Adairville-area native led the OVC in total putouts with 145 and finished the year with a .339 batting average, leading the team in slugging percentage (.768) and RBIs (19). 

That came in 17 games before the season was halted. The Bruins finished 14-3 overall and 3-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Jackson was not only outstanding for Belmont Baseball during the abbreviated 2020 season but he also excels in the classroom. For his efforts, he was named the Trane Student-Athlete of the Month for April.

Belmont University Athletics Student-Athlete of the Month honorees are based on the following criteria:

·        Effort and Excellence in Academics

·        Effort and Excellence in Athletics

·        Dedication to Team

·        Leadership

·        Integrity

·        Campus Involvement

·        Community Service

·        Ability to serve as a role model for current and future Belmont students and student-athletes

Baseball players who are professional prospects have three choices concerning making themselves available for the draft. 1) They can choose to become draft choices immediately after high school. Those who succeed start making money immediately, usually in the minor leagues. 2) If they go on to college baseball, they become eligible for the draft after three years and still have much of their education completed. 3) They can play their senior year, attempting to improve their draft prospects and hopefully complete a degree to fall back on when their baseball is over.

Jackson Campbell has chosen Option 3. In fact, there may be a fourth option because this year’s NCAA spring sports athletes have been granted a fifth year of eligibility after most of this season was cut way short.

Land of Logan in the Draft

If Coco Darden is drafted this weekend, he would become only the third Russellville High School graduate to be drafted for professional sports.

Charles ‘Bubba’ Wells was picked in the second round of the 1997 NBA Draft (34th overall) by the Dallas Mavericks. He played collegiately for Austin Peay and was OVC Player of the Year. He also played for the Harlem Globetrotters, as did his RHS and APSU teammate, Otis Key.

P.J. Jones was drafted in the later rounds of the 1996 Major League draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He had played for Cumberland University. P.J later played pro softball and is enshrined in the Pro Softball Hall of Fame.

Homer Chapman, who was one of Russellville’s first football stars, rose to the highest ranks of minor league baseball, but that came over 20 years before the MLB Draft began. RHS didn’t field a baseball team in the 1930’s.

Logan County High School has fielded two high draft choices come from its ranks.

Mark Thompson was the number two draft choice of the Colorado Rockies in 1992, which was the Rockies first year of pro baseball. Mark was the Rockies organization’s first player on the year and—after playing for them for a few years--he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals and in the Cincinnati Reds organization. Mark was the University of Kentucky’s Pitcher of the Year as a junior in 1992.

Joseph Jefferson was the number three pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2002 NFL Draft. He went on to become a starter in the Colts’ backfield before being derailed by injuries. For many years, Joseph was the highest NFL pick in Western Kentucky University football history.

Brenda Chapman (Strickler) played tennis for Olmstead High School, graduating two years before girls high school basketball resumed here and nine years before LCHS was created. She was drafted by Minnesota into a women’s professional league which preceded the WNBA and was both Rookie of the Year and MVP. She left WKU as the all-time leader in Lady Topper history, a mark which stood until broken by another OHS graduate, Lillie Mason. There was no women’s pro league in the United States when Mason graduated as a multi-year All-American, and she had to play overseas.

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