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Driver, Kampman Selected To Pro Bowl


Two Green Bay Packers who have taken the long road to professional success got some well-deserved recognition on Tuesday.

Defensive end Aaron Kampman and wide receiver Donald Driver, both late-round draft choices who didn't even attend the scouting combine coming out of college, were named to the NFC Pro Bowl team.

Kampman will be making his first trip to the Pro Bowl, while Driver will be making his second, having also gone in 2002 as an alternate. The Pro Bowl will be played on Saturday, Feb. 10, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"I guess it says that hard work does pay off, so to speak," said Kampman, a fifth-year pro out of Iowa. "I've had a lot of help along the way. A lot of people have been there, a lot of great coaches, a lot of great players. It definitely hasn't been all on my own. You pick things from certain guys, you add them to what you do, and you try to get better."

Kampman's steady improvement throughout his career has peaked in a sense this season, as he leads the NFC with 12 1/2 sacks, nearly double his previous career high of 6 1/2 set last year. He has posted three multiple-sack games this season, all at home, with three sacks against New Orleans on Sept. 17, two against Arizona on Oct. 29, and two this past Sunday against Detroit.

A fifth-round draft choice back in 2002, Kampman began his career as a 285-pound power end playing mainly first and second downs. With the change in defensive scheme last season, he started showing more pass-rushing skills and he's lost roughly 20 pounds while becoming a steady, every-down player.

Tagged early on with the label of "overachiever," Kampman has proven over time he's an elite athlete who's more than just a high-effort guy.

"I don't get really riled up about that anymore," Kampman said of the label. "I used to early on my first couple years, but then learned to say, hey, whatever anyone wants to think is fine. I go out, play football, play it to the best of my ability, and kind of go from there."

Kampman also leads Green Bay defensive linemen with 90 tackles (62 solo) in the first year of a four-year contract extension signed in the off-season, when he was coming off a career-high 105 tackles, the second-most ever recorded by a Packers defensive lineman behind Ezra Johnson's 107 in 1983.

Being voted to the Pro Bowl is as much a sign of respect to Kampman as the contract extension he signed last winter. He also has noticed opposing players giving him his due after games this season.

"There's been a number of times after games guys have come up and had some very nice comments, and that's always nice to hear," he said. "I've done that myself to guys that I respect or admire the way they play. It's always nice to hear that from your peers."

Driver hears a lot of that as well. In his eighth season out of Alcorn State, he ranks first in the NFC in receiving yards with 1,173 and is tied for the NFC lead in receptions among wide receivers with 80. He also has seven touchdowns.

{sportsad300}A player who has fought for respect ever since coming to Green Bay as a seventh-round draft choice in 1999, Driver was admittedly sad he didn't go to the Pro Bowl after setting career highs with 86 catches for 1,221 yards last year.

But he said fellow receiver Robert Ferguson told him not to worry, that he'd get it and the respect he's been seeking eventually.

"Maybe I got it now, I don't know," Driver said. "I'm happy I got the opportunity to make the Pro Bowl. This will be my second time. This time I'm not going as an alternate. I made it guaranteed, so I'm pretty happy about that."

Driver needs just seven more receptions and 49 more yards this season to surpass his career highs. He's also just two TDs shy of his career high of nine, set in 2002 and 2004.

Driver has posted three 100-yard games this season, including a career-high 191 yards (on six catches) at Minnesota on Nov. 12. He caught an 82-yard TD pass in that game, his longest of the season and third-longest of his career. His other 100-yard games were against New Orleans (eight catches, 153 yards) and two weeks ago at San Francisco (9-160), which included a 68-yard TD.

Driver also has tied a franchise record with his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, following Sterling Sharpe and Pro Football Hall of Famer James Lofton as one of three Packers to achieve that feat. In addition this year, Driver joined Sharpe as one of two players in team annals to reach 80 catches as many as three overall seasons.

A handful of teams this season have paid Driver the ultimate compliment by double-teaming him and using bracket coverages to limit his impact, but he continues to use that as motivation to produce, as well as what he perceives as a low-profile in the national media.

"I think the guys I play against week in and week out, I think I've earned the respect of those guys," he said. "But the national attention, I haven't earned it yet. I think I still have a ways to go, and I think that's why I play with a grudge on my shoulder.

"That's how I play the game. I try to prove to people week in, week out, that I am one of the best. I feel like I've got about seven more good years in me, so I'm going to keep playing until then."

Three Packers were selected as Pro Bowl alternates - quarterback Brett Favre, linebacker Nick Barnett, and cornerback Al Harris.

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