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High-Motor Kampman Poised For Career Year


Aaron Kampman's green practice jersey hangs off a brass hook in his locker, and a crease folds his memorable No. 74 in half. He never thought of changing that number to one in the 90s -- more commonly worn by defensive lineman.

"I had the opportunity after my second year to change my number to 90-something, a traditional defensive line number," Kampman said. "I kind of like keeping it the way it is. It helps me remember how I've come into this league and reminds me of who I am and what I am and how to keep working."

He has not stopped.

A fifth-round draft pick out of the University of Iowa in 2002, Kampman did not receive an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine, which includes more than 300 draft-eligible prospects.

Now the hard-working fourth-year player leads the Green Bay Packers in sacks with two and ranks fourth in tackles with 19.

"He's having a heck of a season right now, being very physical," head coach Mike Sherman said. "I can't say enough about Kampy."

Kampman has bettered his numbers each year he has been in the league, upping his sacks from 1/2 to 2 to 4 1/2 in 2004 and increasing his tackles from 26 to 38 to 77 in 2004. This year he's on pace to post 101 tackles and 11 sacks.

He would put up those gaudy numbers during a contract year. On April 21, 2005, the Packers matched an offer sheet from the Minnesota Vikings to retain Kampman. His contract now expires after the 2005 season, but the lure of big money is not the reason for his improvement.

"This is how he plays," Sherman said. "He would play this way whether he had five years left or one year left. He's not motivated this year any more so than any other year."

Instead the Packers' new defense has primed him. He lines up wide and at an angle against offensive linemen instead of lining up directly over a tight end or offensive tackle. That scheme prevents an offensive lineman from going at him right away and allows Kampman to hit the edge.

"It gives you more of an opportunity to rush the passer and use some of our athleticism," he said. "I've definitely been a benefactor from the way we're playing this year."

To prepare for that scheme change, he shed 10 pounds, dropping from 282 to 272. He lost the weight by changing his diet, eliminating his late-night snack and adding protein and fiber. The added quickness complements the non-stop motor to each snap.

"He's got one of the best work ethics I've ever been around," defensive tackle Corey Williams said. "He plays every play like it's his last."

Kampman also has excellent hand placement, which allows him to lockout his arms and disengage from blockers.

"He's excellent -- probably the best hands guy on the team," Sherman said.

Players and opponents praise Kampman's technique, energy and smarts. He grew up in Kesley, Iowa, which has a population of about 80 and no stoplights. His blue-collar skills and upbringing can overshadow his athleticism.

"I don't have the same upfield burst that Kabeer [Gbaja-Biamila] does, but I have some good quickness. I have some good speed and some strength," Kampman said. "I try to utilize what God's given me to the best of my abilities."

Those abilities extend beyond the field and into the locker room. After defensive tackle Grady Jackon and Gbaja-Biamila, Kampman is the most veteran defensive lineman. He imparts the lessons he learned from former Packer defensive tackle Gilbert Brown, who used to occupy the locker next to him.

"As you get older it's our responsibility to talk to the younger guys about doing things," he said.

His tireless work ethic also drives the rest of the defensive line. If Williams becomes winded, Kampman provides the motivation.

"A lot of times I'll be tired," Williams said, "and 'he'll be like 'C'mon C-Dub let's do it.'"

And Williams will always follow through because Kampman's words command respect, and his hard work has transformed him from a fringe NFL prospect to a defensive force.

"I think a lot of him and so do his teammates," Sherman said.

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