GREEN BAY – Very few NFL careers experience the meteoric rise that De’Vondre Campbell experienced in 2021.
Campbell literally went from depth signing to first-team All-Pro in less than a calendar year. The end result was the five-year, $50 million deal he signed in March – a reward awfully fitting for one of the NFL’s best linebackers.
And it’s even more fitting when you hear Campbell tell the story of how he signed on with the Packers.
It all started with Campbell’s relationship with Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. The two were together in Atlanta during Campbell’s rookie year in 2016. That gave the Packers a head start against the rest of the competition.
From that point on, things naturally fell in line. But Campbell’s familiarity with LaFleur -and likewise- was a big reason why things fell in line so easily.
“Coming here was a pretty easy decision,” Campbell told reporters Wednesday. “The process took a couple weeks. We were talking for 2-3 weeks before I finally signed, but I was just trying to put myself in the best situation possible.”
Campbell wanted the best situation possible because that hasn’t been the case during the course of his career. His previous stops didn’t take full advantage of his talents and prevented him from taking the steps forward that he wanted and needed to take.
“People consider me an average player. I’ve always felt like I’ve been a great player, but opportunity is everything,” Campbell explained. “I had one job responsibility here that allowed me to excel week-in and week-out rather than going into a game plan where you’re playing 3-4 different positions. I mean, I was able to do it well, but it eventually takes a toll on you.
“So, I just wanted to put myself in the best position to showcase my talents on a weekly basis.”
So, he made sure to make himself clear about his role with the Packers and what he wanted to do in Joe Barry’s defense.
“I told them, ‘The only way I’ll come is if you let me do this and only this’,” Campbell explained. “I don’t wanna play SAM, MIKE, and WILL. Yes, I can guard running backs and tight ends and wide receivers, but I don’t want to do it all day. I did that for five years. The tape is there. But that’s not what I want to do. I want to be the MIKE and I want to be just the MIKE.”
And, of course, his relationship with LaFleur is what prompted the Packers to go along with Campbell’s vision.
“Matt [LaFleur] knows my skillset, so it was an easy decision,” Campbell confirmed. “He was like, ‘That’s what you want to do, I know you can do it, so I’ll let you.'”
And the rest is history. The Packers have a playmaking, tackling machine on the second level of their defense and Campbell finally found a place that appreciates what he does best.
“That was Day 1. From the day I walked in, everybody from Russ and Mark and Brian Gutekunst… everybody was just so happy that I was here. When you got people from all the way to the top-down to people who are just starting showing how much they appreciate you being here, it goes a long way.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve done all the right things for the wrong people, so to actually find people who show their appreciation for you – you want to run through a wall for them. So, the fact that the Packers showed me a commitment, it’s mutual. It goes both ways.”
It’s pretty remarkable that Campbell essentially sealed his own fate with the Packers and flourished because of it. Now, it’s time for them to take their relationship to the next level.
And based off how the two parties view each other, that seems almost guaranteed to happen.
You can watch Campbell’s full press conference, below:
Featured image via MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL via Imagn Content Services, LLC