GREEN BAY – As the Packers wrapped up their playoff bye week last Friday, Head Coach Matt LaFleur huddled the team together for a quick announcement before dismissing everyone for the weekend.
The NFL's All-Pro team had been announced and Green Bay had three players selected to the first team. Two, LaFleur pointed out, were obvious. Aaron Rodgers may be the league MVP and Davante Adams was a unanimous pick at receiver.
However, the third player LaFleur mentioned was the one that had the entire team jumping and shouting in jubilation: linebacker De'Vondre Campbell.
"We were all ecstatic," Adams said. "A few of us got a little bit of a hunch that it was going to be Dre but the same few were also saying it ain't a surprise to us at all. It may be a surprise to the rest of the world."
Perhaps the bigger surprise was how Campbell was completely left off last month's Pro Bowl team, not even chosen as an alternate like in-season signee Rasul Douglas was at cornerback.
But those who have watched the Packers' defense this year can see the difference the 6-foot-3, 232-pound linebacker has made on coordinator Joe Barry's unit. Campbell registered a career-high 146 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks in 16 starts this year.
According to Pro Football Focus, Campbell was the only linebacker with at least 80 solo tackles this season who had fewer than double-digit missed tackles. PFF credited him with just four.
LaFleur has known Campbell longer than anyone else in the Packers' organization, having worked in Atlanta with him in 2016. The coach's presence in Green Bay heavily influenced Campbell's decision to sign with the Packers in early June.
"Those are the types of moments that you live for as a coach," LaFleur said. "To see somebody that worked so hard at his craft, that has added so much to this team, not only on the field – that's obvious for everybody to see – but what he brings to our locker room, what he brings to our mentality.
"Obviously, he's been a big pickup for us. He's a big reason why we've had the year we've had defensively."
This has been a redemptive year for Campbell, who has repeatedly thanked the Packers for the opportunity they gave him when others were saying he was on the decline.
He reiterated that in a 300-word Instagram post over the weekend, mentioning how LaFleur's All-Pro announcement on Friday nearly brought him to tears.
After his 2020 season with Arizona was marred by injuries, Campbell knew the next move he made in his NFL career was going to be critical. So, he bided his time before ultimately opting to sign with the Packers.
Privately, Campbell set a goal to be either make the Pro Bowl or All-Pro team (preferably All-Pro). Carrying a chip on his shoulder, Campbell responded with the best season of his career.
After the announcement was made on Friday, LaFleur called the linebacker froward to break down the team huddle. Campbell's speech hit Rodgers.
"He brought it in and he said, 'From Day 1, you guys made me feel important and special and a part of something special,'" Rodgers recalled. "That moment definitely got me because it's so important to myself and our leadership and the culture we've tried to create to make guys feel important, to make guys feel special, to make guys feel like they're a part of something.
"I just feel like that's an underrated part of chemistry and culture that equates to winning. For him to say that was really cool to hear."
After practice, Rodgers joked with longtime teammate David Bakhtiari that Campbell got "the Bakhtiari treatment," referring to how the left tackle made All-Pro before he was selected to a Pro Bowl.
The same scenario played out last year with former center Corey Linsley, who was voted first-team All-Pro but wasn't picked for the Pro Bowl until this year.
Despite sitting out of the regular-season finale in Detroit to rest an elbow injury, Campbell still finished third on Green Bay's defense with 988 defensive snaps played. A full participant in practice on Tuesday, Campbell appears to be close to full health and ready for the Packers' final playoff push.
"We wouldn't be where we're at without him right now, I'll tell you that. He kind of holds that defense together," Adams said. "We knew he was deserving. We just didn't know exactly if he was going to get the vote or not, but we were all excited. I was way more excited for him than I was myself.
"Nobody more deserving on our team to be a first-team All-Pro than Dre, in my eyes."