Before Atlanta's preseason opener at the Georgia Dome, veteran Jacob Tamme did his part to help the rookies prepare for their Falcons debuts. Playing in an NFL game, the tight end said, is nothing more than practicing against guys wearing different colored jerseys.
De'Vondre Campbell took this advice to heart and used it to shape his mindset heading into Thursday. According to the fourth-round draft pick, it allowed him to perform at the level that has earned him praise throughout XFINITY® Training Camp.
"(Thursday), I turned a lifelong dream into reality," he said. "I just had to do what I've been doing (at Flowery Branch) against another team."
Campbell finished the evening with four tackles (three solo) and a tackle for loss. He looked sharp from start to finish — as did fellow rookie LB Deion Jones, with whom Campbell said he's developed a lot of chemistry.
Campbell showed off his versatility, too, thriving in every situation the scheme and opposing offense presented him. He rushed the passer during his second snap of the game and forced Redskins QB Colt McCoy to throw an errant pass into the turf. He stuffed the run, flying into Washington's backfield to tackle Keith Marshall behind the line of scrimmage in the second quarter. He fared well in zone coverage by tracking down RBs who caught passes in the flat.
Falcons alum Chuck Smith said Campbell's multifaceted skill set makes him the kind of prospect Atlanta wanted in the draft, and that was on display Thursday night.
"It's very important in general, in this league," Campbell said about being well-rounded. "To be great, you have to be able to do many things well — not one thing really well. I think that's something that I had from the day I stepped on this campus. I can rush, I can guard guys, I can do whatever is asked of me."
Preseason is especially important for newcomers like Campbell who are still adjusting to life as professional athletes. By succeeding in his first taste of the NFL — and doing so against mostly first- and second-teamers — the University of Minnesota product will return to practice on Sunday knowing he's where he belongs.
"It just gave me a lot of confidence in general, knowing that I can play at this level," Campbell said. "I'm just trying to continue to take this momentum into next week, then Miami, then Jacksonville. So I think it was a big step for me.
"I've always felt comfortable in any situation. I feel like that's one of the big things that I have going for me that I think (head coach Dan Quinn) really likes. I don't get rattled, I don't get nervous about a big moment, I don't really show too much emotion. I just go with the flow."