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Kampman Has The Skills To Match His High Motor


Maybe observers read Aaron Kampman's bio -- the one that states he hails from the 80-person, no-stoplight town of Kelsey, Iowa; that states he is the son of a lumber company owner and that states he did not receive an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in 2002.

Whatever the reason, Kampman had earned a label denoting his effort rather than his athleticism: high motor.

And once upon a time, he took offense to that stereotype.

"I used to, but then I realized that I couldn't change what people would write or the way people thought," Kampman said. "I just realized it was a silly thing to fight how people perceive you."

To perceive Kampman correctly, just examine his statistics. Kampman recorded 105 tackles, the second-most by a Packers defensive lineman in team history. He also finished second on the 2005 squad with 6.5 sacks. Both totals represent career-highs and came during a season in which on-line voters at selected him as the Packers' defensive MVP. Kampman deemed 2005 as his best season.

"It's obviously the most productive," he said.

Or to perceive Kampman correctly as a high motor and skilled player, pop in a game tape of his Week 11 performance against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. In the first quarter, the defensive end knocked the ball out of quarterback Brad Johnson's arm, forcing a fumble. In the second quarter, he pressured Johnson, grabbing the passer's arm to cause an errant throw and force a punt on the next play. Several plays later he sacked Johnson for an 8-yard loss. All in all, he recorded eight tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a quarterback pressure. That game served as the first multi-sack game of his career and the supreme game of his supreme season.

The defensive scheme, implemented by the Packers under defensive coordinator Jim Bates in 2005 and to be continued under Bob Sanders in 2006, primed him to harass Johnson all night long. For much of the year, Kampman lined 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.

During the last year and a half, Kampman also changed the way he worked out. Instead of performing traditional lifting and conditioning exercises, he did more position-specific training. Rather than pushing out repetitions of bench press, he would stand in a four-point stance and throw a medicine ball against a wall to simulate how he wrestles away from blockers.

Fundamentals as well as exercise routine have helped make him one of the Packers' most complete defenders. Throughout the season, coaches lauded his hand placement, which allowed him to lock out his arms, disengage from blockers and employ good leverage. He worked on his hand skills during every day of practice of the 2005 season.

"That's one of my assets," Kampman said.

Those skills allowed Kampman to take pressure off of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila during the season. In 2004 Gbaja-Biamila routinely faced double teams and extra attention from opposing offenses. While most offenses chose to use quick three-step drops or run the ball against the Packers in 2005, Gbaja-Biamila received less attention on the rare occasion offenses challenged them on vertical routes.

"They can't focus on me," Gbaja-Biamila said. "He's a huge help."

Kampman has helped himself at the right time. An unrestricted free agent, he put up his best numbers in a contract season, but the lure of big money is not the reason for his improvement.

"This is how he plays," former Head Coach Mike Sherman said earlier in the year. "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."

His lack of avarice fits his benevolent manner. On Dec. 6, several Packers attended the "Families of Children With Cancer Christmas Party" at St. Mark Lutheran Church in De Pere, Wis. A family who had a son recovering from cancer approached a reporter covering the event and said Kampman was one of the kindest people they had ever met. The defensive end not only spent a lot of time visiting with the family during the previous year's party but also continued a relationship with them over the phone.

Such amiability did not surprise his teammates.

"He's a friend. He's a real good guy," Gbaja-Biamila said. "I respect him as a person, as a player."

Kampman's teammates also respect the way he plays. Kampman goes hard and goes often. He played in 93.6 percent of snaps in 2005 and always until the whistle blew.

"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."

That description certainly feeds into that label, which the four-year veteran now accepts. Kampman, however, adds a twist.

"I would describe myself as a high-motor guy," Kampman said, "that has a lot of ability."

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