The only incentive Aaron Kampman needs is scoreboard.
An NFL all-Pro veteran – he has plenty of bank.
Kampman, a highly-successful Iowan who Friday night receives the annual Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award, never has, nor never will be part of the big-hit-for-pay “bounty” controversy that cost the New Orleans Saints its head coach for the 2012 season.
“That’s not in my character – or the character of men I have played with,” said Kampman, whose eye-popping football resume includes accomplishments in the state of Iowa, Green Bay and now Jacksonville. “It’s not who I am.”
The former Aplington-Parkersburg and University of Iowa star joins past recipients Shawn Johnson, Dallas Clark, Norman Borlaug and Ed Thomas for an award presented to people who “demonstrate good character as a visible role model,” according to the Character Counts in Iowa website.
That’s off the field, where Kampman helped friends and family recover from devastation of the 2008 Parkersburg tornado, and on the field, where the defensive lineman specializes in legal strategy to dislodge football from arms, not head from shoulders.
“The nature of the game is violent and it’s played by men who run around pretty fast, but maliciousness has never been the intent with anyone I’ve played with,” Kampman, 32, said. “It’s what we try to instill in the younger players – you can make good hits, but a brotherhood exists in that you don’t want to maliciously hurt someone.”
An NFL investigation showed that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams instituted a bounty system, where opponents were targeted with injury-causing hits. He was suspended indefinitely, while head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season after allegedly lying about the existence of the unconventional policy.
“Really, it’s not a common practice,” Kampman said. “I’ve been in the NFL 10 years and fortunately, I’ve never had that situation with any teams I’ve been part of. Initially when the season starts, the (bounty) stigma probably will still exist, but over time, hopefully it’ll go away.”
Kampman has had his share of big sacks – that comes with the territory of being an all-pro selection in 2006 and 2007. Those years are just fond memories, now, after two injury-shortened seasons.
“I feel good about where I am, but I temper it, considering what I’ve been through the last couple years,” said Kampman, who underwent knee operations in 2009 and 2010. “I feel the best I’ve felt in a while. I’m excited.
“It’s like I’m in an airplane, trying to avoid turbulence as it gets to cruising altitude. I just want to keep climbing.”
Friday night, he’ll climb to the podium, where he addresses an audience of around 500 at the sold-out event.
“Quite frankly, it’s an opportunity for me to reflect on the myriad of people who have helped make me who I am,” he said. “It’s neat, getting an award that’s not linked to professional performance.”
Who: Aaron Kampman
What: Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Hy-Vee Conference Center, West Des Moines
Tickets: Sold out.
Bio: Four-year letterman at Iowa between 1998-01 after graduating from Aplington-Parkersburg High School. All-Big Ten selection in 2001. Fifth-round choice by Green Bay in the 2002 draft. All-Pro selection in 2006, 2007.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football