TEMPE, Ariz. — There’s a lot Frostee Rucker misses about Calais Campbell.
There’s Campbell’s friendship, which was cultivated years before the two became teammates in 2013 and continues through group text messages as the two live their lives a country apart. There’s Campbell’s personality and spirit. There’s his presence on the field. But one of the things Rucker misses most about Campbell were his speeches.
“He likes to give speeches and I don’t,” Rucker said. “So he used to always want to give the speech and I don’t care to. That stuff. Not that it’s a problem, but I’d rather just play than have to, not say motivate guys, but have to give a rah-rah speech.
“He was very, very good at that, but that’s part of his passion for the game. He liked to be vocal, he liked to talk.”
When the Arizona Cardinals stopped pursuing Campbell in free agency earlier this year, Rucker’s role as a leader in the Cardinals locker room expanded. However, instead of Rucker giving Campbell’s old speech, it’s now inside linebacker Karlos Dansby in the middle of the huddle giving the pep talk.
When Campbell signed a four-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth $60 million in March, he took his unique style of leadership and kind-hearted personality with him. But he’s letting his play do the talking for him with the Jaguars, who visit the Cardinals on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Campbell is tied for the league-lead with 11.5 sacks, leading Cardinals defensive tackle Josh Mauro to declare Campbell “probably one of the best players in football right now on either side of the ball.”
Campbell’s former teammates have enjoyed watching their good friend set a career-high in sacks while making the most money of his career, and they’re happy for him.
“He’s a beast,” Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters said. “He’s always been a beast, now I think that it’s just a new market of people being able to see him.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hasn’t seen much of Campbell this season but thinks Campbell is “playing really solid.”
“He’s got his sacks playing a lot of different positions,” Arians said. “He fits pretty well in that defense.”
Rucker credits the Jaguars’ usage of Campbell as one reason for Campbell’s blockbuster season at 31 years old.
“He’s playing phenomenal,” Rucker said. “He’s spending a lot of time playing outside and picking on tackles. I think he wanted to do that a bunch here and it was never possible just because of the way we ran our scheme. He got his wish and he’s delivering.”
Campbell’s former teammates don’t just follow him through his ever-increasing stat line. They watch his film and then pull up the group chat to share their thoughts, Rucker said. And Campbell does the same with them.
Even though Rucker and Peters still stay in touch with Campbell, they miss being around their friend.
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Campbell helped Peters adjust to Arizona after Peters signed with Arizona in 2015. Their friendship grew from there.
But watching a friend go to another team is part of doing business in the NFL. The Cardinals defensive line understands and accepts that.
“You don’t really have time to miss people in this business,” Mauro said. “You just move forward with the guys you have.”
It’s been hard for Rucker to not miss him.
“Just him being himself,” Rucker said. “You always miss their spirit, so to say. He was great in the community, great in the locker room. He was a great guy.”
When Campbell’s former teammates talked about him, the first thing they said wasn’t that he left with the second-most sacks in Cardinals history or that his size — 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds — made him one of the most unique players in the NFL.
The first words out of their mouths were about what kind of person Campbell was off the field.
“He came here and he did every single thing that they asked him to do and he left here with the respect of everyone in this locker room and should (get the respect of) everyone in this organization and everyone in this community,” Rucker said.
Said Mauro: “He was very vocal and brought really good energy to the group. But he also backed it up with his play on game day. He worked hard at practice. He didn’t miss a beat. He wasn’t a guy that took advantage of his status or role (or) his respect from people. He never took advantage of that. He always worked.
“As a former teammate and just as a person, all you can do is respect somebody like that. He definitely brought energy and just brought a really unique talent.”
However, it’s hard for his former teammates to forget what Campbell accomplished in between the lines.
“I would think he’ll be in the Ring of Honor here when his career is done,” Mauro said. “I know he was pretty young and wasn’t playing much defense when they went to a Super Bowl, so he experienced that. He was in the shadow of [former Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell] Dockett for a while and he made a name for himself after a while.
“He’ll definitely be one of the greats that played here.”