Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Aaron Kampman enjoyed 'tremendous ride' in Green Bay


Pass rusher went from unheralded arrival to Packers Hall of Famer

Nov 13, 2023 at 05:10 PM


Mike Spofford editor

GREEN BAY – If Aaron Kampman arrived in Green Bay in 2002 somewhat overlooked as a fifth-round draft pick, he learned pretty quickly it wouldn't be easy to change that perception.


"Funny story, early in my career when we set out the third-down pass rush depth chart, I remember that I thought I'd be the second, maybe third team," Kampman recalled. "I actually wasn't even on the depth chart to start things out. So that gave me a little indication about where I was starting."


He's finishing, though, in the Packers Hall of Fame, as Kampman and fellow pass rusher Clay Matthews will be the next two inductees in August 2024.

A small-town kid from Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Iowa who played college football for his home-state Hawkeyes, Kampman went on to earn two second-team All-Pro selections and two Pro Bowl honors during eight years with the Packers.


He's always shared credit with the teammates and coaches around him, but Kampman's own drive and work ethic played probably the biggest role in his success. His small-town, humble upbringing was the genesis of that, which is what he plans to talk about during his induction ceremony next summer.


"The work ethic there was instilled in me at a young age," he said, speaking with the media Monday. "That was something that exemplified itself all the way through my career, and I wanted to be the best.


"Being a 10-year-old, I had a dream I wanted to play in the NFL, and that was something I was very fortunate to be able to do. It was a tremendous ride."


It didn't start out like gangbusters, as Kampman had to persevere, steadily but surely working his way into a full-time starting role. Three years into his career, he had a total of seven sacks.


Then Jim Bates arrived as the Packers' new defensive coordinator in 2005, and the change benefited Kampman as an every-down defensive end.


"We started to play a little different defense at that time, which allowed me to get a little wider and start to rush a little bit differently," he said. "That's when I think I had more opportunities to get on the field, and to rush and show some of that ability."


Kampman nearly doubled his career sack total that year with 6½, and then when Bob Sanders arrived as defensive coordinator along with head coach Mike McCarthy in 2006, his career really took off.


He posted 15½ sacks in '06 and 12 more in '07, earning his All-Pro and Pro Bowl accolades those seasons. The 15½ sacks remain the third-highest single-season total in team history (since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982), and his 113 tackles that year still stand as a franchise record for a defensive lineman.

He added 9½ more sacks in 2008, capping a five-year run in which he started 89 of a possible 90 regular-season games, missing only the '07 finale when starters were resting for the playoffs.


A knee injury ended his season early in 2009 and, as it turned out, his time in Green Bay, which concluded with 54 total sacks, good for fifth on the franchise's all-time list. He finished his career with two injury-riddled seasons in Jacksonville.


He couldn't have asked for a better fit than coming to the NFL's smallest market, though, and for that he's forever thankful. He and his wife, Linde, became very involved in a number of community and charitable endeavors as three of their four children were born in Green Bay.


"It was a great time in our lives," said Kampman, who now runs a leadership development company called Align that he started seven years ago. He's also coached football at Solon High School in Iowa for roughly the past decade.


"When I was coming out of Iowa, I had three draft visits to the New York Jets, to San Diego and to Green Bay, and my wife and I, we've both reminisced about what life may have looked like if we would've ended up on one of the coasts. We're very blessed and fortunate that Green Bay was the spot for us."


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