Aaron Kampman Pro Bowl Diary - Part IV

Aaron Kampman, who was joined by teammate Donald Driver in Hawaii, played in the Pro Bowl for the first time on Saturday night, making four tackles for the NFC. Driver had three receptions for 38 yards, and the NFC rallied in the fourth quarter to tie the game, only to lose on a late field goal by the AFC, 31-28. Kampman has been chronicling his week-long trip to Hawaii exclusively on Packers.com, and here is the final installment of his diary:

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*In his fifth season with the Green Bay Packers, defensive end Aaron Kampman finally shook the label of a try-hard overachiever and was recognized as an elite athlete and performer at his position, earning his first bid to the Pro Bowl.

Coming off a lucrative contract extension he signed prior to the 2006 season, Kampman went out and earned every penny, leading the NFC with 15 1/2 sacks, the third-highest single-season total in franchise history. He also recorded a career-high 113 tackles, a franchise record for a defensive lineman.

Kampman, who was joined by teammate Donald Driver in Hawaii, played in the Pro Bowl for the first time on Saturday night, making four tackles for the NFC. Driver had three receptions for 38 yards, and the NFC rallied in the fourth quarter to tie the game, only to lose on a late field goal by the AFC, 31-28.

Kampman has been chronicling his week-long trip to Hawaii exclusively on Packers.com, and here is the final installment of his diary: *

The game was a really good experience. I think all the guys enjoyed themselves. It was fun to be able to compete with one another. As the game progressed, there were times where the intensity level picked up, and other times it was waning. Obviously, it's not the same type of preparation you would have for a regular-season game or a playoff game, but at the same time I think everyone wants to compete well and play well against their peers.

We played three defensive ends - myself, Julius Peppers from Carolina and Will Smith from New Orleans - and every three plays we rotated. You would play for six, off for three, play for six, off for three, and we kept that rotation going the whole game. I went against tackles Matt Light from the Patriots and Marcus McNeill from the Chargers, and I just played the left side pretty much. I didn't go against Tarik Glenn from Indianapolis. There was a smattering of all the different offensive skill players for the AFC coming in and out - tight ends Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson at the tailbacks, and Willie Parker was in there. They had Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning as their quarterbacks. There were constantly different personnel in there. That's another thing about the game. When you go in for a regular game, you have a real game plan for how you want to play a particular guy. With this, you don't know what he's going to do, he doesn't know what you're going to do. You're just out there competing and having fun.

Most of my tackles were on tailbacks. I didn't get any sacks, but I had some nice pressures on the quarterback a few times, so that was good. I don't think I was in top form myself, but I don't think any of the guys were. Maybe a few of the guys who played deep in the playoffs, but they were pretty tired. It's definitely not a showcase of everyone being in peak condition, but it's more about a chance to come together and enjoy the camaraderie and compete against each other.

There was one time Matt Light came in playing right tackle, and he's normally a left tackle. Before the snap, I heard him say, "Man, this right side stinks." I kind of chuckled to myself, and he saw I was laughing. When the ball was snapped, he thought I was going to go with a speed rush, but I gave him what we call a long-arm stab, and he fell right over and I hit Manning. Unfortunately he got rid of the ball and I wasn't able to sack him. But it was funny because I was helping Light up, and he was laughing, and he said, "C'mon man," like I shouldn't be trying so hard. I don't think Manning liked the fact that he got knocked down. The guys on the sideline were asking me about it, so it was kind of funny.

{sportsad300}We got a chance to see Donald during the week. Linde and Betina hung out on the beach a little bit, and Donald had a good week too. They actually left Sunday. During the game, he caught a few balls, and they threw to him a couple times on deep ones. The coverage was pretty good, though, and the balls were a little out of his reach. Otherwise, he was regular Donald, going out there and making plays. We had a good time together.

The last couple of days before the game, the NFL encourages you individually to do one community relations event, and I jumped at the opportunity to go meet some Marines. It was a real highlight of the trip. There are tons of different armed forces represented on the islands, particularly here in Oahu. We visited some different stations, and it was tremendous. I got a chance to meet a lot of different Marines themselves, some training to go over to Iraq and Afghanistan. These are young men in their late teens and early 20s, so I really appreciated that opportunity to shake their hands, look them in the eyes, and tell them they have our support.

I know I look differently at the military since my wife and I took that trip to Germany last year, spending time with troops stationed there and knowing the sacrifices these men and women are making on our country's behalf. Regardless of people's opinions about this or that, it's so important to encourage and support the troops who are making these sacrifices, so that was really tremendous.

I actually received quite an honor, too. I was with a captain, and we got along really well. The captain's insignia has two bars, and he wears those on the lapel of his uniform, and as we were driving back, he said what he was about to do very rarely happens, but when you really want to honor someone or show respect to someone, you give them one of your insignias. And he gave me one of his pair of captain's insignias and put it on my hat, so that was really neat. I was very humbled and very grateful. That was pretty special, a neat moment.

One of the last things was they took me to their training grounds for firing weapons, and they let me shoot what amounts to almost like an AK-47. They called it an M-4, a semi-automatic weapon, assault rifle. They taught me how to shoot it with live rounds on the shooting range. Then they showed me how to shoot a Baretta, a 9-millimeter pistol. They were impressed. I actually did pretty well. With the pistol, they said don't feel bad if you don't hit a target from 7 yards away, but I did very well with that. The next step was to back up, and they had a pole with targets on hinges that would swing back and forth on either side when you'd hit it. There were about seven of them on this pole, and I did pretty well with that. They said I might have another career after football, and they wanted me to enlist and come with them.

It was fun, and I always enjoy spending time with military personnel because of all the similarities from the standpoint of being on a team. I never want to compare what we do as football players to what they do, there's not a good parallel there. But just from the standpoint that the Army has its own culture, and the Marines has its own culture, and there's a lot of pride in what they do. From the team standpoint, we have some of those same things, a culture on the team and we're glad to be Packers or Vikings or Falcons. It was a great trip.

I just want to convey how much appreciation I have for the opportunity to be here. Myself and my family, we feel very blessed to come over here, and we really tried to enjoy ourselves. It was a nice way to wrap up the season, and now it's time to hit the reset button and do it again.

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