Calais Campbell first Jaguar to win Bart Starr Award: 'a true honor'

Defensive end Calais Campbell is the first Jacksonville Jaguars player to earn the NFL's Bart Starr Award, which is given to a player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership at home, on the field and in the community. Michael Reaves/Getty Images

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Calais Campbell just finished a season in which he accomplished something no other Jacksonville Jaguars player has ever done.

Then he did it again.

Campbell, 32, was named the winner of the Bart Starr Award, which is given to the NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership at home, on the field and in the community. The award, which is voted on by players at the same time as Pro Bowl voting, has been given annually since 1989 and Campbell is the first Jaguars player to win it.

"I try to keep in mind how other players think of me and I hope I earn their respect," Campbell said. "Receiving this award is the ultimate satisfaction just knowing the guys respect the way I play the game and that really means a lot to me."

Campbell had 10.5 sacks in 2018, which made him the first player in franchise history to record double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons. He had a franchise single-season record 14.5 sacks in 2017, which made him a finalist for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award. Campbell, who has 25 sacks in 32 regular-season games with the Jaguars, also was lauded by the coaching staff for how well he played the run in 2018.

His work off the field has been just as impressive. He is a respected leader in the locker room and has made a significant impact in the community. Campbell's Charles Richard Campbell Foundation (named for his father) raises funds to teach young people critical life skills. The foundation also takes children Christmas shopping (Christmas with Calais), funds an after-school program and awards an annual scholarship.

One of the foundation's fundraising events happened last spring and he and numerous teammates -- including quarterback Blake Bortles, linebacker Myles Jack, guard Andrew Norwell and defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus -- spent several hours eating and bowling with fans, families and sponsors at a Jacksonville bowling alley/entertainment complex.

Among those attending the event as guests of a sponsor was a Jacksonville family that had been living at the Sulzbacher Center, a homeless shelter in downtown Jacksonville. Campbell was glad to help because he knows firsthand how tough that can be. When his parents Charles and Nateal both lost their jobs in the late 1990s, Campbell, his parents and his five brothers were forced to stay at a homeless shelter for six months until his parents found work again.

That experience was among the reasons Campbell formed his CRC Foundation, which was a factor in winning the Bart Starr Award. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner, Derrick Brooks and Reggie White are among the players who have previously won the award.

"Just thinking of all the other great players on the list, it's like, wow," Campbell said. "All those guys [nominated this year] are deserving, too, but it's cool to know 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 they admire.

"This is just a true honor. It really is."