FROM Cantell School to the biggest gig in the world.

That is the journey made by Will Champion, drummer with rock band Coldplay.

Yesterday, as they released their eagerly awaited seventh studio album, A Headful of Dreams, which is certain to rocket to the top of the music charts around the world, it was confirmed that they had landed the plum slot of headlining the half-time show at Superbowl 50 in California.

It means Southampton born and bred Will and his bandmates will be watched by a crowd of 68,500 inside the Levi’s Stadium and a TV audience of more than 110million for their 20-minute slot at American Football’s showpiece occasion on February 7.

Not bad for a lad whose first musical love wasn’t even the drums.

As a child, Will’s next door neighbour had a drum kit and he sometimes played on that and in music lessons at school, but it wasn’t until Coldplay’s original drummer was ditched for failing to turn up to rehearsals that Will became serious about drumming.

From page 21 In one interview he revealed: “I started playing other instruments when I was about 14 and didn’t really look at a drum kit. When I went to university my friends started a band and needed a drummer so I said I’d give it a go.”

Will, who had been the group’s rhythm guitarist, took over the sticks and the rest is history.

Well, almost.

Fame and fortune almost slipped through Will’s fingers – for he too was sacked by the band shortly after they signed their first record deal.

A producer told them they weren’t technically good enough and the band blamed their drummer. Luckily for Will, front man Chris Martin begged him to return.

Now 37, Will can look back proudly on nearly 20 years in one of the world’s biggest bands, which has netted him a fortune estimated at £52million in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List.

It is all a far cry from his days growing up in Southampton where he attended Portswood Primary School and Cantell School in Bassett, before heading to Peter Symonds College in Winchester and University College London, where he met the other members of Coldplay.

He learned piano and violin from the age of eight and guitar from 12 while also becoming proficient on bass guitar and tin whistle.

His musical ability was in his genes. His parents Sara and Tim, who were both lecturers at the University of Southampton, where Tim still works, used to DJ as Champion Tunes.

Sara died of cancer in 2000 and Coldplay’s debut album Parachutes was dedicated to her. Will attended a ceremony at the university in 2001 where a plaque in his mother’s memory was unveiled and a common room dedicated to her.

For the most part he has managed to keep his private life out of the spotlight – indeed Will has said that he can wander down the street and do the shopping without getting recognised. The first member of Coldplay to marry, to teacher Marianne Dark in 2003, he has a nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old twin sons.

But Will – and fellow bandmates Guy Berryman and Jonny Buckland – have all been in the shadow of Chris Martin, perhaps unsurprisingly given his ten-year marriage to Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow.

It’s a situation he seems happy with. After all, dedicated Saints fan Will might not want to join his dad in the stands at St Mary’s where he still retains a season ticket.

Speaking about how he’d like to see more Saints games Will said: “I haven’t been able to get to as many games as I’d like as we’ve been very busy and I’ve got three young children, so it’s quite hard to get down there. I’ve still got my season ticket and my dad goes every week.”

Will did his best to support his beloved Saints during less successful times. In 2009 he backed the Daily Echo Save Our Saints campaign, which called on fans to pull together to ensure all was done on and off the pitch to avoid the club going down, or out of business. At the time Will said he didn’t have enough time or money to buy the club himself.

The band, which has won numerous awards including Brits, Grammys and MTV Music Video Awards, believe in sharing their good fortune where they can.

They have used their fame to support causes such as Fair Trade – and sent a message of support to Southampton for achieving Fair Trade City status – along with Amnesty International, Make Poverty History and the Meat Free Mondays campaign.

They have gained further admiration for donating ten per cent of their profits to charity – not insubstantial profits given they have sold more than 100 million records worldwide since releasing their debut studio album Parachutes in 2000, not to mention all the sold-out concerts they have performed around the globe.

Coldplay recently appeared on The Sunday Times Giving List produced in association with the Charities Aid Foundation for giving £3.8million to charity in the past year including £1.45million to a children’s charity.

And earlier this year they donated £10,000 completely out of the blue to quadruple amputee Alex Lewis after reading his inspirational story in the Daily Echo.

In a heart-felt email Chris Martin personally thanked the Stockbridge dad for “renewing his faith in life”.

The singer read Alex’s battle to survive against the odds and told how he was moved by his determination to live life despite losing all four limbs and part of his face after a common cold turned into a flesh-eating bug saying he handled it with “awesome force”.

As for the new album, it features guest performances from Beyonce and Noel Gallagher and the band will head off on tour next year taking in 20 stadiums across 14 countries in Europe and Latin America. They play Manchester, Glasgow and Wembley in June, on their first tour in three years.

In the meantime, the band have agreed to perform at the X Factor final for ITV, live from Wembley Arena next weekend, when they are expected to perform their new single from the LP, Adventure of a Lifetime.

While Will must be grateful that he was reinstated as a member of Coldplay the rest of the band feel the same. He is often regarded as the rational one of the group. They say of him: “Will does have a very sensible head on his shoulders and when it comes to making band decisions he’s really good at putting valid points across and keeping everyone focused. He frequently has the casting vote and his decision can sometimes override the consensus.”

Whatever, Will says that the band remain grateful for what they have achieved.

“Just before we go on stage, we have a little moment,” he said. “We all get together and remind each other of why and how we are in the position we are and that it’s not an opportunity to be wasted. Every day we wake up knowing how lucky we are but it drives us to work harder.”

Certainly the success of Will gives hope and encouragement to the region’s talented young musicians who hope to emulate him.

Matt Salvage, co-director of the Eastleigh-based SoCo Music project, which supports the development of young musicians in Hampshire, told the Daily Echo: “It’s so important to have inspirational musicians like Will coming out of the city, it’s great for young local musicians and bands. SoCo works across the city and we see so much talent around us, it’s aspirational to see one of our own be so successful.”