The real Kampman
You know Aaron Kampman as one of the greatest pass rushers in Packers history.
You know Aaron Kampman as the fifth-round draft pick who worked his way into becoming a two-time Pro Bowler.
You know Aaron Kampman as the player who was the focal point of the Packers' defensive switch during the offseason.
Aaron Kampman holds a bundle of rags that kids use as a soccer ball.
Courtesy Aaron Kampman
This story is about the Aaron Kampman who has gone through a few life-changing events over the last year-and-a-half. There was the tornado that stormed through Parkersburg, Iowa. There was a trip to Africa with teammate Donald Driver. There was the murder of his high school football coach.
"There's definitely been a lot of things back home, and they haven't necessarily been positive," Kampman said.
It all started on May 25, 2008 — the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend — when a massive tornado tore through the Iowa communities of Parkersburg and New Hartford.
"It was a shock," Kampman said. "The images that you're accustomed to — the horizons, the landscape — it's been there for years, and it's completely gone. I guess it would be similar to putting the whole town in a blender and dumping it back out again. I'm sure you've seen pictures. It was just complete devastation."
'That First Season'
On the 50th anniversary of Vince Lombardi's inaugural season in Green Bay, John Eisenberg's "That First Season" chronicles Lombardi's remarkable debut as coach of the franchise he would reinvent and etch forever in football history. Based on exhaustive new research and interviews, "That First Season" is the seldom-studied prequel to a football career marked by greatness.
Eisenberg was an award-winning sports columnist at The Baltimore Sun for two decades and is the author of seven books, most recently "My Guy Barbaro," co-written with jockey Edgar Prado. He has written for Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated and Details, among other publications.
"Thirteen players from the 37-man 1959 roster had passed away," Eisenberg said of his research. "Of the 24 still alive, I spoke to 18, all at length, either in person or on the phone. I also spoke to some players who didn't make it out of training camp; Bill Austin, the lone surviving member of Lombardi's original coaching staff; and many fans, members of the media from that era, and family members of the players and coaches."
The brains behind the blitzes
Dom Capers supervises practice.
Mark Wallenfang/Packer Report
The Packers' first-year defensive coordinator credits his success to the coaches he's work with along the way. While moving up the ranks, he worked under College Football Hall of Fame inductees Don James at Kent State, Johnny Majors at Tennessee and Earl Bruce at Ohio State. In the professional ranks, he served under Jim Mora in New Orleans and a first-time head coach by the name of Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh.
But more than anyone, maybe Capers should thank Bill Walsh.
After working under Mora for two seasons with the USFL's Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars, Mora became head coach of the Saints in 1986. He brought Capers with as his defensive backs coach, and they installed the same 3-4 scheme that helped the Stars win back-to-back championships. The Saints finished 7-9, and in two games against Walsh's San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans yielded an average of 400 yards — including 332 passing yards to Mike Moroski, who got the start in place of an injured Joe Montana in the second matchup.
"We did have to change the scheme after the first year because we were in a division with the 49ers, and that's when Bill Walsh and Joe Montana were there," Capers said. "We played everybody pretty well, but you could see we played the 49ers twice and we weren't going to stop them with what we were doing. We took all 16 games of the 49ers, we cut them up into different segments and we met and invested a lot of time with what we felt it would take to defend them, because they were the team you had to beat in the division. So, we adjusted a lot of the things we were doing."
Determined defensive back
Somewhere up in the stands at Louisiana Tech, Tramon Williams watched. Not in disgust, rather skepticism. Part of it was tough, sure. Nobody wanted him out of high school. Nobody gave him a chance.
But maybe, just maybe, he could walk onto the football team in the spring. So he watched the receivers. He watched the defensive backs. Each play reinforced his hopes.
"I was like, ‘Man, I can go out there and do what they're doing,'" Williams told Tyler Dunne of that 2002 game between Louisiana Tech and Boise State. "It kicked in just like that."
That pinch of confidence grew beyond belief. Seven years later, Williams is one of the Green Bay Packers' best defensive playmakers — on-demand lightning in a bottle. Always a sprained ankle away from starting, Williams has shined as the Packers' nickel cornerback — a role that makes him the de facto 12th defensive starter. As Al Harris and Charles Woodson inch toward retirement, Williams gives Green Bay a peace of mind.
Wild day in Green Bay
Ray Rhodes coaches his last game in Green Bay.
Packer Report archives
The town's beloved Packers were about to complete their 1999 season at Lambeau Field on Jan. 2, 2000, against the Arizona Cardinals. While the global scare of malfunctioning computers had subsided two days into the new millennium, fans of the Green and Gold faced the grim possibility of no postseason football for the first time since 1992.
Green Bay's run of six straight trips to the playoffs and seven straight winning seasons had given its fans a higher standard. Titletown was back, and anything less than winning football was unacceptable and unthinkable.
Matt Tevsh takes us back to that remarkable day, when the Packers were playing the Cardinals and trying to score enough points to stay ahead in the playoff race. When it was over, the Packers fell short of the playoffs and Ray Rhodes was out of a job.
Super Bowl and Hall of Fame bust
Ron Wolf jumped up from his seat in the press box of the Louisiana Superdome at Super Bowl XXXI and shouted, "Go!"
Desmond Howard had just fielded Adam Vinatieri's kick at the 1-yard line and sprinted upfield behind Don Beebe and Lamont Hollinquest.
"Go!" Wolf yelled again, raising is hands over his head as Howard avoided the dive of New England's Hason Graham and cut left at the 30-yard line.
"Gooooooooooo!" Wolf belted out as linebacker Keith McKenzie gave Vinatieri a shove and Howard raced down the gorgeous green turf into the Patriots' end zone and Packers immortality. As the shock and euphoria of what had just happened engulfed me, our W. Keith Roerdink glanced over at Wolf, who was seated directly in front of me, and had this thought: "You did this. You made this happen."
That play wasn't just an exclamation point in Packers history, it was an exclamation point on Wolf's amazing — and arguably Hall of Fame — career. When thoughts turn to Green Bay's second golden age, the discussion inevitably revolves around quarterback Brett Favre, defensive end Reggie White and coach Mike Holmgren as the three men who transformed the National Football League's Siberian outpost back into Titletown. But there is a fourth face that should be put up on the mythical Mount Rushmore of Packers greats, and it's the man who decided on the other three even being there.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.