First-year ultimate player brings experience

Nolan Campbell is a survivor of literal hurricanes and spiritual storms. He started playing ultimate in high school, helped start a team in community college, and is eager to go to nationals with John Brown University.

Nolan Campbell is not one to brag on himself. Despite a stellar ultimate frisbee record, knowing seven different programming languages and standing at an imposing height, Campbell refuses to place himself on any sort of pedestal.

When Campbell was ten years old, he was in Biloxi, Mississippi when Katrina hit, not a mile from the coast. Hurricane Katrina was the second hurricane Campbell had survived. The effect of the two storms on Campbell was damaging and staggering to his faith.

“That’s really when my faith was tested in the beginning. Growing up, I had a lot of trust issues with God. I grew up in a Christian household, but the storm was really when I decided that I didn’t want anything to do with this God. The typical, ‘If God’s so good why would He do this to good people sorta questions,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s father worked for the air force, so the family moved around a lot. When the family moved to San Antonio Campbell started to dig back into faith.

“That’s when I actually wanted to find out who God was, but it was a fight inside. I knew that I should’ve cared, but I really didn’t.”

In San Antonio, the family was homeless for a year, living in hotel rooms and with friends.

“If I could go back with the faith I have now, I would just give all my burdens to God, but at the time I felt that if I didn’t try to fix this, then it wouldn’t be fixed,” Campbell said. “At the time, I didn’t really worry about it too much. I didn’t understand what it was back then. As a ten-year-old, you know, it’s like ‘Aw, I lost all my toys.’ Now it’s like, ‘Wow, what a big deal.’”

Campbell’s path to ultimate frisbee, comparatively, was pretty straightforward. Once Campbell had moved into high school, he found an outlet in athletics. Nowadays that outlet is ultimate; “Whenever life is rough, I just pick up a frisbee.”

“In high school, I did a lot of sports, like all the sports, just to get in with people and be around them. I loved being active. When I got out of high school and found out I wasn’t really good at one sport, I really got into ultimate and kind of started a group at the community college I went to in San Antonio. It was a great club with a lot of great guys who loved the game and loved the Lord. I experienced the culture and experienced the sport and just fell in love with it.”

Campbell says the team at John Brown University works well because all the guys are invested in one another; “I found out that the team at JBU was apparently really good and that I needed to be a part of it. They’ve been to nationals five times and more to come.”

Campbell said the team is tightly knit.

“We all hold each other accountable for our daily lives for our daily walks in the Lord. When one goes astray, we don’t just leave him. We come up behind him and support him. Even on the field, it makes us so much more coherent. The fact that we know more than just each other’s names really helps us as work as a team.”

Campbell said he has high hopes for this year’s team.

“This is my third team now, so I understand the dynamic of ultimate. JBU has been to nationals five times and we’re goin’ this year, and the team has looked better this year than it has the past four years. Our hope is that we go further this year, not just go to nationals, but to win,” Campbell said. “The fact that this team puts God above all and puts relationships above the play spills out on the field to make harmony.”