It seems like it would be hard to miss Calais Campbell. Not only is the Arizona Cardinals’ 6-foot-8, 300-pound defensive end one of the NFL’s biggest players, he’s also one of the most dominant. However, despite his mammoth size and tremendous production, Campbell has managed to toil in the trenches in relative anonymity.
Though he’s known by teammates and coaches around the league as one of the best defensive linemen in football, he’s received little in the way of formal awards or recognition—until now. This season, Campbell was named to the first Pro Bowl of his seven-year career. We caught up with him at Super Bowl XLIX to talk about nutrition, education, football and the benefits of being a multi-sport athlete.
Listen to Your Body
Campbell’s nutrition has certainly evolved since his time at South High School in Denver. He says, “Back in high school, I ate whatever I wanted. Fast food all the time. I didn’t really care about it, and the only reason I ended up OK was because I was so active.”
But once he got to the NFL, Campbell realized that eating right was his responsibility. “It’s your job to perform at a high level, so you really tune into what you eat and how it makes you feel,” he says. In the kitchen, he likes to mix things up. “I try to stay diverse. I like eating different things, but obviously I eat a lot of carbohydrates—brown rice and whole grains. Those things give you longer-lasting energy,” Campbell says.
Campbell urges young players to listen to their bodies when it comes to their diets. “A lot of guys don’t pay attention. Find out how certain foods make you feel when you eat them, and think how they can affect your performance,” he says.
Campbell also knows the importance of staying hydrated while he plays and while he trains, and he relies on Gatorade to help him stay strong. At halftime, he munches a Gatorade Whey Protein Bar to recover and refuel for crunch time.
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Campbell was a three-sport star in high school. Besides dominating on the gridiron, he was an all-state hoops player—he led the state in rebounds and blocked shots his junior season—and a standout on the track & field team.
Campbell believes the skills he developed as a multi-sport athlete were invaluable. He says, “Playing multiple sports 100 percent made me a better athlete. When you play different sports, you’re forced to do different things. I learned quick-twitch stuff from basketball. Track and field, I learned about my stride, my jumping, my hip thrust. I actually even wrestled for a while, and that helped me learn leverage and momentum. It all transfers over and develops different muscle groups.”
Playing multiple sports not only makes you a better all-around athlete, it also makes you especially attractive to college coaches. Just look at the Ohio State Buckeyes championship football team. Forty-two of the 47 recruits Urban Meyer has signed played at least two sports in high school.
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Football and Beyond
Life between the lines has been good to Campbell lately. In addition to his Pro Bowl selection, last season included one of his favorite plays ever. Late in the second quarter of an Oct. 5 matchup with the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning dropped back and tried to swing a screen pass to Broncos RB Montee Ball. Campbell sniffed it out, shed his blocker and plucked the ball out of the air. A 300-pound defensive lineman making a play by intercepting one of the greatest QBs of all-time? Pretty cool.
“Picking off Peyton Manning was one of my favorite plays of my life,” Campbell says. The only downside? He was tripped up by Manning on the 3-yeard line, missing out on a pick-six. “I never thought I would’ve got tackled by Peyton Manning. My teammates gave me a really hard time about that,” he says.
Although he still has plenty of fuel in the tank, Campbell knows there’s life after football. He recently donated $1.6 million to his alma mater, the University of Miami, to establish the Calais Campbell Football Defensive Lineman Endowed Scholarship in perpetuity. “It’s a small token of my appreciation for what Miami did for me,” says Campbell. “I want young players to appreciate the student part of being a student-athlete. I’m invested in education, and I know that Miami helped prepare me for my future.”
Campbell graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in advertising and marketing.