As defensive end Aaron Kampman walked out onto the main stage of the Lambeau Field Atrium during Saturday afternoon's Fan Fest, the throng of fans applauded -- and for good reason.
"I wanted to make this official," Kampman said. "I'm going to be staying in Green Bay."
Kampman's representatives hammered out a four-year contract extension with the Packers' front office late Friday night just before the free agent period was slated to begin.
"It's a deadline league," Kampman said. "Usually things get done in the 11th hour most times. I'm just glad it all worked out."
The Packers are glad too. Coming off a career year when he finished second on the 2005 team with 6.5 sacks and recorded the second most tackles for a defensive lineman in franchise history, Kampman would have become a very coveted unrestricted free agent.
Had the parties not come to terms, Kampman said he would have been on an airplane en route to visit another NFL club instead of at Fan Fest. Although Kampman declined to name the other NFL teams that wanted him, he admitted there were several.
"We had some phone calls," Kampman said. "There was significant interest."
Kampman said the Packers made re-signing him a priority. They began negotiating with him at the end of the 2005 season, and Kampman let them know the interest was mutual.
"They knew I wanted to be here," he said.
Kampman's new deal allows him to further entrench his roots in the Green Bay, Wis. area. He and his wife Linde already have a house in the Green Bay area but may expand it. Their second child is due this spring. They also remain very active in charitable events throughout the community.
"My wife and I are very happy here," he said. "This is a tremendous place."
The 26-year-old will spend the prime of his career in Green Bay. Boding well for the future, he has increased his tackles and sacks in each successive year of his four-year career.
"He's a great defensive end," safety Nick Collins said.
Kampman has earned that status despite not being selected until the fifth round of the 2002 NFL draft. He did not earn an invitation to the 2002 NFL Scouting Combine, which welcomes most draft-eligible prospects. His new contract helps provide a level of validation after being underrated for so long.
"There's some sense of that," he said. "But I'm just going to continue to operate under the same principles and values I had during the first four years of my career."
Fans can rest assured that the lucrative contract will not go to Kampman's head. The never-stop-until-the-whistle player participated in 93.6 percent of the snaps last year and will remain down to earth rather than extravagant. He said he will put most of the contract's money into the bank, saving for his children's future while also donating some to charity.
"That will make sure Lucas and our next child go to college. Hopefully we'll be able to bless some other people too." Kampman said. "I won't change."
When pressed by a media member suggesting he needed to spend his new-found riches on something more exciting, Kampman added further proof to his modest style.
"I'll probably just go out to dinner or something," Kampman said.
He takes that unselfish approach to the field, and the Packers defenders enthusiastically welcomed his extended stay.
"I'm happy he came back," defensive tackle Corey Williams said. "He's one of the leaders on the defensive line. All of us look up to him."
Kampman remains confident that he and the rest of the defensive line will bounce back from their 4-12 season last year. The 2005 season represented the first time Kampman missed the playoffs during his entire NFL career.
"It was weird not to be in it last year," Kampman said. "That was a speed bump ... We can be right back where want to be."
A comeback season in 2006 would take place with Kampman harassing the passer and stuffing the run from the edge and wearing "Green and Gold." That opportunity had him smiling during all of his media sessions.
"This is a great, great moment for myself and my family," Kampman said. "In the end this is the place I wanted to be."