By Deb Silverthorn
Carter Campbell, a wide receiver for the SMU Mustangs, has wrapped his passion for the sport of football in his passion for his people. Campbell’s 2022-2023 football photo shows the SMU junior wearing his tallis; the San Antonio native is proud to carry his identity to the field.
“On the field it takes everyone to win — 11 guys working together to achieve a goal. In the Jewish community it takes every Jew feeling proud of who they are for us all to be strong,” said Campbell. “The school’s media department suggested we show what best expresses ourselves and wearing my tallis, showing I’m a proud Jew, does that.”
The son of Doug Campbell and Stacey Campbell, and brother of Hailey and Jessica, Campbell graduated from Reagan High School — where he played varsity football and baseball — before coming to SMU’s Cox School of Business to study business management.
“Carter’s always been passionate about sports and his Judaism and hasn’t let one get in the way of the other,” said his mother, always cheering him on the sidelines of life — often dressed in his team colors from the stands. “He’s worn a Jewish star since he was a kid. While studying for his bar mitzvah, he’d work with Cantor Berlin on the phone while traveling to and from sports practices. He’s juggled it and succeeded in both.”
Cantor Julie Berlin of Temple Beth-El, his home congregation in San Antonio, says watching Campbell find, and hold onto, his strength of Jewish character is meaningful.
“Carter is a good, sweet kid and I’m glad to see making Judaism a part of his life forever is important to him. I love seeing our young people carrying — and wearing — their Jewish pride as young adults when the decision and the actions are theirs,” said Berlin. “I always hope they’ll feel their Jewish identity and carry the good memories they have of being in temple as they create their own Jewish lives.”
SMU Chaplain Rabbi Heidi Coretz immediately felt great joy when seeing Campbell’s Mustang photo — unique on the campus which is home to approximately 350 Jewish students.
“SMU encourages everyone on campus to show up as their most authentic selves and Carter’s expression, the physical of his tallis in the photo and the emotional of the connection he exudes, is a perfect example of his most authentic self,” said Coretz, starting her 19th year serving the campus. “I’m pretty sure Carter is the first Jewish player I’ve known at SMU. It was exciting to see the pride he carries and his confidence of self and who he is as a Jew.
“Our Jewish community is a valued one on campus, respected and appreciated. Our community and programs have continued to grow through the years and I’m excited to see students wanting to be engaged in who they are — of who we are,” says Coretz.
The SMU campus hosts an impressive Jewish studies program, an AEPi fraternity chapter with a house on campus, a Hillel program that hosts dozens of events each year including Shabbat and holiday programs and meals as well as many educational events, an active TAMID experiential business learning group and more.
In 2018, Campbell played baseball, and earned a gold medal, in the 2018 JCC Maccabi Games in Orange County, California. Besides his good memories of the experience, he also made friends for a lifetime including the members of his host family.
“Maccabi was a great experience and through it, in Carter and Stacey, we made friends forever,” said Alexandra Spitz, his host mother, who with her husband Eric and children Asher and Jack welcomed Campbell and three other athletes into their home.
Campbell returned to Southern California to visit the Spitz family, who this summer made a move to nearby Southlake.
“Carter is a great example for our boys and we couldn’t be happier to be close enough to watch him play for SMU,” said Spitz.
Rob Likens, SMU assistant head coach, says Campbell always displays courage and strength and that he makes decisions in the sport, and other areas of life, based on what’s right and what he believes is true.
“Carter is extremely strong and sure of himself, extremely so such that nothing fazes him,” said Likens. “A successful person is one who can bring their whole self to whatever role they play and he does that all the time, every single day.”
As the High Holy Days this year fell during the week, Campbell didn’t need to choose between play and prayer. For him, his relationship with his religion — and with God — is year-round and one he cultivates no matter where he is.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily about being observant all of the time but more importantly holding onto the Jewish values I’ve been raised with,” said Campbell. “I love being a Jew, and I embrace my heritage in my everyday life. I’m a Jew, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to show that ‘out loud.’”