The Jaguars have never had someone quite like defensive end Calais Campbell. That doesn’t stop with his on-field impact.
Campbell on Tuesday became the first Jaguars player to win the Bart Starr Award, which recognizes one NFL player who best represents outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community.
The award is voted on by the league’s players and will be presented to Campbell on Feb. 2, the day before the Super Bowl is held in Atlanta.
“It’s cool to know that my NFL peers, the people I respect the most, the guys who work the hardest to be at this highest level, think that I’m a guy that they admire,” said Campbell, who was also the team’s 2018 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award nominee. “This is just a true honor. It really is.”
Campbell, whose Charles Richard Campbell Foundation works to help teach critical life skills to young people, has been everything the Jaguars could have wanted and more since he signed a four-year, $60 million contract in March 2017.
Almost immediately, Campbell, 32, became a respected voice in the team’s locker room. And he’s been a key piece of the team’s defense, which led the Jaguars to the AFC title game in January 2018.
Campbell set a franchise record with 14 1/2 sacks in 2017, when he was voted to the Pro Bowl for the third time and named a first-team All-Pro selection for the first time. He notched a team-high 10 1/2 sacks in 2018, becoming the first player in franchise history to total double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons.
Campbell found out he was this year’s Bart Starr Award winner Monday when he received a call from Starr’s wife, Cherry. Past winners of the award, given out annually since 1989, include Benjamin Watson, Thomas Davis, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Steve Largent was the inaugural recipient.
“I believe you play the game the right way,” Campbell said. “You play with the respect of your peers in mind but also respect of the game. I know the type of effort each and every person has to put in to be good at this game. When you play as long as I have, there’s kind of an understanding that everybody has to be as best they can be so they can be on this field. They have to really develop and put time and effort in so they can go on the field and produce on Sundays.”
Campbell, who has 81 1/2 career sacks in 11 seasons, is expected back with the Jaguars next season.
His production would be difficult to replace. As would his leadership.
“Whether you’re playing for the Super Bowl or you go 0-16, you’ve got to play the game the same way,” Campbell said. “You’ve got to play it the right way. That’s just with love and passion and respect for the game as a whole and the people playing it. I have so much love for this game.”
Written by: Phillip Heilman: (904) 359-4063