From NFL to SJPD, ex-football player describes journey to become officer at protests

San Jose Police Officer Terrence Campbell said he never dreamed of being a cop. He was on the front line trying to control protestors during that first night of demonstrations in San Jose.

Campbell has been a patrol officer for nine months. He said no one saw the violence and chaos that night coming. He is defending how the department handled the protests.

“It was my first day of encountering anything like that,” said Officer Campbell. “It was my first day standing on the line.”

Campbell spoke to KTVU and reflected on the night of May 29, the police chief has described as one of the most violent nights of the chief's tenure.

Officer Campbell stood at the front of the police line, baton in hand, facing a sea of protestors. He was seen talking with a young woman he said approached him with tears.

“I felt her pain,” said Campbell. “I could definitely see what she was going through and feel what she was going through because I’m African American myself.”

Campbell didn’t think he’d become a cop. Three years ago, he was an offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League. Before that, he played in the NFL.

He grew up in Georgia at a time when he was told calling the police only made things worse.

“I had a lot of bad experiences in my childhood growing up with cops,” said Campbell. “We don’t call the police. If you call the police you were disowned.”

Over time, he overcame that distrust and when football didn't work out, he realized becoming a cop could enable him to be a role model and bring change.

Looking back at how the department handled the protests in San Jose, he said everything happened so fast and everything was for the safety of the people.

As for his actions, he tried to de-escalate the tension. Campbell said that young woman asked him why he wanted to be a police officer.

“I told her I’m fighting the same fight she's fighting,” said Campbell. “We have to get out and we have to get involved. We have to become the change that we want.”