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How De’Vondre Campbell went from little-known defender to star captain in Green Bay

A one-year veteran minimum deal. That is what the Green Bay Packers signed free agent middle linebacker De’Vondre Campbell to last offseason, right before training camp. 

The Florida native had spent the early part of his career with the Atlanta Falcons (2016-2019) and Arizona Cardinals (2020). He was the definition of consistency in the majority of those seasons.  

Campbell recorded 90+ tackles in four of those years, including a 129-tackle season in 2019. He played 16 games every single season except for his rookie year. Underrated was and still is a word that describes Campbell. However, for some reason, he got virtually no looks as a free agent before Green Bay called. That was a call that would change the trajectory of his career for the better.

De’Vondre Campbell’s 2021 season was remarkable

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
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Last season was far and away Campbell’s best season of his six-year career. He set career-highs in combined tackles (146), solo tackles (102), QB hits (6), and pressures (7). It was the best inside linebacking season the Packers have seen in a long, long time.  

He was the only player in the league last season to record 145+ tackles, 5+ tackles for loss, 5+ QB hits, 5+ passes defended, 2+ sacks, and 2+ fumbles forced. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher proved that he has elite instincts, great vision, and strong play-making abilities.

It was a tremendous season that ended with Campbell earning first-team All-Pro honors, marking the first time an inside linebacker earned All-Pro Honors in Green Bay since Nick Barnett in 2007. No. 59 was also rewarded with a fresh five-year, $50M contract by Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst. The former fourth-round pick went from being a quietly steady defender to an All-Pro force for one of the biggest and best franchises in all of sports. 

Related: Why the Green Bay Packers match up favorably in Week 1 vs Minnesota Vikings

2022 outlook for Campbell and Co. 

Not only do the Packers have a cornerstone piece in Campbell now, but they could very well have the best defense they have had in over a decade. Up front, outside linebackers Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are very solid on the edge (both had 9+ sacks in 2021). Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kenny Clark is the anchor up front who wrecks gameplans and eats up space. 

On the boundary, Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, and Eric Stokes make up arguably the best cornerback room in the league. Safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage form one of the best boom and ball-hawk duos in football. 

In April, the Packers added elite defenders out of Georgia in the first round in middle linebacker Quay Walker and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, both National Champions in college. This defense has everything it needs to become a Super Bowl unit. 

But make no mistake about it, De’Vondre Campbell is the heart and soul of this side of the ball. After recently being voted as one of the team’s six captains for the upcoming season, which kicks off Sunday in Minnesota for the Packers, No. 59 is one of the top players on Lombardi Ave. It is time that he starts getting the league-wide respect that he deserves.    

Related: 3 reasons why the Green Bay Packers will bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy home this season