Calais Campbell's journey to 100 career sacks was 16 seasons in the making. He is only the 42nd player in recorded NFL history to reach the century mark. He is one of six active players in the league to accomplish the feat. To celebrate Campbell reaching and surpassing 100 career sacks, AtlantaFalcons.com goes back in time with Campbell as he reminisces on some of the most impactful moments of his career.
In the third of five stories, Campbell discusses the sack that never came, but the moment that made up for it when he faced a legend on Oct. 5, 2014.
For access to all of the celebratory content, visit the Calais Campbell Sack History landing page.
Calais Campbell can talk all day long when reminiscing on the sacks of his career that accumulated to 100. He can tell you so many stories. He can recall a solid number of the 51-and-counting quarterbacks he's sacked en route to the century mark.
For Campbell, though, the sacks he didn't get are the ones that bother him the most. None so much as the sack he's missing. Or better yet, the name he's missing in his quarterback graveyard.
Campbell never sacked Peyton Manning.
"That one hurts," he said.
A Denver kid through and through, Campbell grew up a Manning fan. When he was 15 years old, Manning came to a camp Campbell was participating in. As Manning stood before him, a thought took form in Campbell's adolescent mind.
"I remember thinking to myself: 'One day I'm going to sack him," Campbell said.
He never did, though.
"I hit him a whole bunch," he added, "but I just couldn't bring him down."
There was a hint of dejection in Campbell's voice as he spoke about Manning. Campbell faced Manning a couple times before the quarterback retired in 2016.
Manning is the one who got away. Literally.
Campbell trailed off as his memories with Manning played before his mind's eye, but then his deep voice perked back up again.
"I did intercept him, though!" he said.
Campbell intercepted Manning in Oct. 2014. On 2nd-and-20, Manning tried to hit his running back leaking forward towards the line of scrimmage. That's when Campbell jumped in front of Manning's target and brought in the pass.
How Manning didn't see a 6-foot-8, 287-pound Campbell jumping the route is anyone's guess.
With the ball secured in his arms, Campbell turned and lumbered towards the end zone. The Broncos had been on their own 28-yard line. So, the only player standing between Campbell and a pick-6 was Manning himself. Manning dove for Campbell's legs, tripping up the lineman on the 5-yard line.
Campbell jokes now that Manning could have had an All-Pro career as a linebacker if the whole quarterbacking thing didn't work out.
That October day was the last time Manning and Campbell would meet on the field of play.
And though Campbell never got the sack he craved – the one he still misses in his catalog to this day – he'll take the interception with no complaints.
"There's some solace there," he said with a smile.
Campbell has had a few multi-sack days en route to 100 career sacks, but no day was as extraordinary as his first with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Click here to jump ahead in time to Sept. 10, 2017, a day that saw everything go right for Campbell.