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.
The first of five stories jumps back in time to the moment Campbell recorded his very first career sack on Sept. 20, 2009.
For access to all of the celebratory content, visit the Calais Campbell Sack History landing page.
The first sack of Calais Campbell's professional career is one he didn't even know was a sack when he made it.
In his second year in the league after being drafted No. 50 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008 NFL Draft, Campbell was still searching for that elusive first career sack. It finally came on a half sack split between Campbell and Arizona defensive back Adrian Wilson in the fourth quarter of a Cardinals win.
Looking back, there wasn't anything particularly amazing about the moment. Jaguars quarterback David Garrard was scrambling to get back to the line of scrimmage. He was hoping to pick up maybe a yard or two on second-and-long with the pocket collapsing around him. Campbell stopped him straight up and Wilson jumped on the tackle. It was a play for no gain, bringing up 3rd-and-13.
"I didn't know that was a sack back then," Campbell said.
But it was, and it would be the first of many for Campbell.
As he looks back on that play over a decade later, he does find something special in a moment so mundane.
As Campbell had Garrard in his sights, there was no great pass rush move that got him there, no slinging of a defender to the ground. He wouldn't call the play sexy or spectacular.
When it was over, there was no sack dance, no celebration. The pass rusher was still a little ways away from implementing his signature baseball swing sack celebration, something he did to pay homage to one of his favorite players growing up, Denver's Neil Smith. There was none of that.
What there was, though, was effort.
"There are a lot more sacks over the years that came with really good moves, and you're like, 'OK, that one was special because you used your bag there,'" Campbell said. "But this one was just a pure effort sack."
And you know what, Campbell added, sometimes a sack doesn't have to be spectacular or sexy or devastatingly glorious. Sometimes it can just be down right dirty, with a player fighting for a sliver of contact with the quarterback, a sliver with just enough force to bring him down. There's something special about those moments, too.
"I never really wanted it easy," Campbell said. "I always wanted to go get it the hard way."
The first sack of his career is the epitome of that statement.
The sack journey continues with Campbell revisiting the day he earned his favorite sack of his career. Click here to fast forward in time to Dec. 6, 2009, a day Campbell will never forget.