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 fourth of five stories, readers follow Campbell to Jacksonville and experience his first game as Jaguar right alongside him.
For access to all of the celebratory content, visit the Calais Campbell Sack History landing page.
Calais Campbell has had quite a few multi-sack games in his time in the league. To be precise: He has played 17 games with at least two sacks and four games with three or more. Some days are a grind, he said, but every once in a while you find yourself in a game where everything that could go right, does. Everything you want to do, he said, you can do.
On no other day of his career was that truer than it was on Sept. 10, 2017, the day Campbell recorded four sacks in his first game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
To really understand the importance of this day for Campbell, you have to hit rewind. You have to go back a few months to when Campbell was a free agent for the first time in his career.
After nine seasons with the Cardinals organization that drafted him, Campbell hit the open market. He was weighing offers for the first time, and on March 9, 2017 he decided to take his talents to Jacksonville.
Looking back, Campbell said he felt like the Jaguars organization was going out on a limb for him.
He was 31 years old at the time, and the narrative around NFL players who reach and surpass 30 is their effectiveness starts to decline as their career sunset looms.
Then, there was the fact that Campbell was going to be trying something new formationally.
He was drafted by the Cardinals almost a decade earlier to play interior defensive line in a three-technique. Campbell didn't complain. The way for him to see the field was to play inside. For years, though, Campbell told anyone who would listen that he could play off the edge. Jacksonville was going to let him.
It's because of these reasons that Campbell felt there were decision-makers in Jacksonville who were staking their careers on Campbell's success.
"I was super motivated to prove all those people who believed in me right," Campbell said, "and prove all those people who didn't believe in me wrong."
Campbell got his first chance to do so in the Jaguars first game of the 2017 season against the Texans on the road.
Campbell remembers being filled with so much pent-up energy as the game got started. So much so that he can recall the very first play for the Jaguars defense with crystal clarity. It was a run play and as the play got off, Campbell's feet got tangled up underneath him. One blocker had him up top and another came and hit him in the middle, knocking him to the ground. As he rolled to his side to get back up, the energy he felt turned to rage.
"I was like, 'Oh man, I cannot start my career in Jacksonville getting beat up,'" Campbell said. "So, I was mad. I was angry."
Campbell channeled that anger into one goal: Getting to the quarterback.
In that moment, one could argue nothing was going to stop Campbell from reaching that goal when the very next play saw Texans quarterback Tom Savage drop back.
"I was so mad I just ran through the tackle," Campbell said. "Ran over him onto the quarterback, and I got my first sack as a Jaguar."
Campbell's day wasn't over, though. Far from it.
"We're just getting started," he said.
As the first half continued, sack No. 2 came not too long after No. 1, which was actually recorded as a half sack shared with Abry Jones. Sack No. 2 was all Campbell, though, when in the second quarter his blocker side swiped him as he charged towards Savage once again and took him down.
Then, there's No. 3, which happened on the Texans very next drive. On that play, Campbell used his cross chop move to drop Savage for a loss of seven yards. And that cross chop? That's Campbell's favorite move. It's the best trick in his bag, the best rabbit in his hat.
"I'm really grateful for Tom Savage," Campbell said, "because he likes to hold the ball."
The Texans benched Savage in the second half, choosing to give the quarterback duties to a young Deshaun Watson after Campbell sacked Savage yet again in the final minutes of the first half.
The Watson era in Houston was born on that day, Campbell said. But he couldn't let the day go without welcoming Watson to the league. His final sack of the game (also a half sack to get him to four sacks total) happened on the very last defensive play to ice the game.
Six tackles, six quarterback hits and four sacks later, Campbell's first day as a Jaguar ended up being one of the most prolific performances of his career.
"That was a heck of a start," he said.
After recording sack No. 99 with Baltimore, Campbell's journey to 100 career sacks finally concludes in Atlanta. Click here to read the details of a moment 15 years in the making.