For Dan Campbell the decision was easy. Actually, the Giants made the decision for him. Sure he would have loved to stay in New York. After all that's where it all started for Campbell, where he first made it to the Super Bowl, you get the picture. Then along came a youngster named Jeremy Shockey. Surely you've heard of him. By no means did Shockey's presence render Campbell useless around East Rutherford. It just made it more palatable to let him walk away.
And walk away Campbell did. A Texas boy through and through, Campbell grew up in Glen Rose and attended Texas A&M. Where better to play professionally than deep in the heart of Texas? The Giants were offering basically a reserve blocking-only role and not a whole lot of money - actually no more than the league minimum. The Cowboys? How about more than a million bucks just to sign and the likelihood of the starting TE spot?
Unfortunately for Campbell, his time in New York is also where he learned first-hand that the NFL is a business. The day Big Blue drafted Shockey, they made at least a couple calls looking to unload Campbell. When he questioned the coaching staff, Campbell was told that wasn't true. The only problem was he already knew that it was. Perhaps that made it easier for him to leave the Big Apple; perhaps not.
What we do know for sure is that while Campbell is thrilled to have a new lease on life, practically everyone he left behind misses him something fierce.
"He brought all the right things of a pro player," TEs coach Mike Pope said. "He had the work ethic, he was in early in the morning, lifting, dragging guys along with him. He made up his mind he was going to be a really good player and he was. He's a terrific player." Campbell, the Giants' third-round draft choice in 1999, caught 43 passes for 369 yards and five touchdowns during his four years with New York, while developing a reputation as an outstanding blocker.
"Campbell brought a toughness," LB Brandon Short said. "He was just a tough, hard-nosed player. He developed into just as good a blocker as Howard Cross was. He could catch the ball, too. They just never threw the ball to him and gave him a chance.
"He provided leadership on the offense. People looked up to him because he worked hard. When you looked on the tape, he was always getting it done. He gave the extra effort, springing blocks, doing the stuff that most people don't even notice."
From a statistical standpoint, Campbell hardly earned any Pro Bowl votes. But as Short said, he did the valuable behind-the-scenes things that often went unnoticed.
"Dan Campbell was probably the most underrated or underappreciated for what he did for us last year," Jim Fassel said. "He's a good guy. I miss him a lot. He was very valuable when he was here.
"He wanted to go somewhere where he could be the starting tight end. I wouldn't want him on my team if he didn't want to be a starter. Dan Campbell is a tough guy, he is a hard guy, he plays hard, he practices hard; he is exactly what you want on the team."
"He didn't talk a lot; he just led by example," said CB Will Peterson, whose locker was right next to Campbell's. "He would pull people to the side. He wasn't really rah-rah, he was more of a guy that was going to show you what he could do and show you the right way to do things." Not only was Campbell an integral part of the team, he also served as a mentor to Shockey.
"Dan, his leadership is impeccable, you see how he lives his life every day to the fullest and he likes getting better," Shockey said. "He is definitely a guy to follow and to want to be something like him, because he is really a true pro in the sense that he came out here every day to get better, he really pushed me to get better. A lot of days I really didn't feel well and didn't want to do it and he would come up to me and kind of say, 'hey, do it, push through it, get it done and do your work.'
In his usual style, Campbell wasn't interested in taking any bows.
"I don't know how much help he needed," Campbell said. "He was so far along when he got here; he is such a good athlete. He picked up on the game fast. I think maybe I helped him adjust to it a little bit. Maybe kept him a little level-headed.
For the most part I can't take credit for, really, any of the way he played. That is him, that is his God-given talent and he has used it to the best of his ability. That is to his credit."
Pope admittedly wishes he had a roster full of Campbell clones. He credits Campbell for helping Shockey improve "200-300 percent" as a blocker.
"Dan Campbell helped him with that," Pope said. "He was the perfect example of how to block. We're now trying to get (rookie Visanthe) Shiancoe and Marcellus Rivers to do things as close to the way Dan Campbell did as we can."
Now Campbell's in Big D, with a club not expected to win nearly as often as the team he left behind. "We feel like we have an opportunity to do something special down here in Dallas," he said. "It's just pretty much us right now.
Obviously no one believes in us and we haven't proven the fact that we can be a contender. We have to do that down here. I knew when I left that New York was going to be good. I knew what they were about. I knew the Giants were going to be a good team whether I was there or not. I took that into consideration and that was one of the things that was hard about leaving - to know that you are going to leave a winner. But that was a decision that I had to make. It was just better for me to be down here than up there." Dallas' gain is certainly New York's loss - and a big one at that.