Michael Campanaro’s grandfather was born in Italy and his father, Attilio, grew up in the United States. The parents of Campanaro, a former football standout at River Hill High School, are both chefs who work in Howard County.
The son of Attilio and Lisa Campanaro, Michael's pursuits are in stark contrast to the culinary arts. Now in his third year at Wake Forest, the Clarksville product is a communications major at the school and an offensive threat on the football field as a redshirt sophomore flanker and kick returner.
Last year, in his first season of college football, he was fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in average return per kickoff at 24.2 yards per shot.
Last season against Navy he had 165 yards on kickoff returns, the seventh-best total in school history. He made the first start of his college career at Maryland on Oct. 30, 2010 and had three catches for 38 yards as he played in front of countless family and friends.
“I cannot tell you how many. My entire family was there, uncles, cousins and a lot of friends,” he said. “I have a lot of friends that go to Maryland. I had to get a lot of tickets for them.”
“It is always good to play a team from your hometown,” he added. “I grew up watching Maryland as a child. It will be fun every year to play them.” Wake Forest will host Maryland on Nov. 19; he had four catches in a win Saturday at Boston College in an Atlantic Coast Conference game.
Campanaro is roommates at Wake Forest this year with former River Hill teammate Kevin Johnson, a defensive back who is redshirting this season and is academically ineligible to compete. The two played for Brian Van Deusen at River Hill as the team won Class 2A state titles in 2007 and 2008.
“He had a great spring. He was going to be our No. 1 cornerback,” Campanaro, who keeps in touch with current River Hill players, said of Johnson. “He is the most positive guy that I know. He works hard every day (in practice). I think this year will help him.”
Campanaro, 20, played in two of the first three games this season (a hamstring injury caused him to miss a 48-5 win Sept. 17 against Gardner-Webb) and he had 12 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 16 catches in games through Oct. 1 after the win at Boston College, the fourth game of the year for Wake.
Campanaro, who was born in Silver Spring, ran for 1,848 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior at River Hill and caught 17 passes for 266 yards and seven touchdowns.
He also had 71 tackles and seven interceptions on defense and was named The Washington Post All-Met Offensive Player of the Year.
His parents have moved from Clarksville to the Inner Harbor but make the drive to Howard County for work. Campanaro, who has been to Italy to visit family, made only one official campus visit, to Wake Forest in North Carolina.
“I just feel in love with the coaching staff down here,” he said. “It is a great school. ACC football is great. The ACC is awesome as well. Wake Forest fit me.” And the Wake staff certainly feels the same way.