Catching Up with Former Rep: Aaron Kampman
A former NFL defensive tackle, Kampman played 10 seasons between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Green Bay Packers. He graduated from the University of Iowa and was drafted in 2002. We recently caught up with two- time Pro Bowler and he gave us insight into his life during and after football.
What is your current career?
I run a leadership development company called Align, you can find it at TheAlignProcess.com. I started it about 4 years ago and we work with people and individuals around the country. I have always been interested in leadership development and how we can become the best version of ourselves. As a professional athlete you are always striving, its performance based and yet when we live for performance, at times life can be very much up and down dependent on whether you win or lose. So, I’ve always been interested in what makes us the best version of ourselves in a consistent fashion. I put together all of my different leadership moments and experiences and mentors and packaged that together in what has become Align. To market the idea, we begin with “Who” we believe it’s important to start on the inside and spend time in the identity circle around both individually and corporately. We have been getting a lot of traction working with people in that capacity, it seems to be resonating pretty deeply with people.
How would you describe your experience leaving the game?
I left the game in 2012, I was with the Packers for 8 years and sustained an injury in my last year of my contract with them. Subsequently had three consecutive years where I ended the season on injury reserve. So, there was a tapering in my career from kind of being at the height of my physical abilities to my body then beginning to experience some injuries. There was a gradual preparedness that was happening emotionally in my own understanding. Transitioning away from the game led to this period of discovery. How could I package what we talked about in the previous question, in a way that would help others? I spent a number of years, part of which working with the NFLPA as Captain of The Trust along with other ventures that were in the service and leadership development type arena until Align was founded. So, my transition was kind of like a big funnel. I was doing a number of different things that were centered around others, my football career had started to move that way as I was getting more injured, I had been spending more time helping develop younger guys and the culture. Everything had just been funneling towards the reality of what I am doing now.
What are you most proud of during your time as a player rep?
That’s hard for me just because it’s so definitive but what came to my mind right away when you said “most proud of” is the way I strived and carried myself as a person. Interacting with everyone, whether its players, coaches, sports staff, janitorial, or custodial, I tried my very best to treat everyone well. My high school football coach the late Ed Thomas said you should never forget where you came from and that resonated deeply with me. I never wanted to become something I wasn’t. Being a kid from Iowa who grew up in a small town of 80 people, I didn’t want to forget those realities. Going back to Align’s philosophies I always like to begin with who I am. I didn’t do that perfectly by any means, but I am proud that it was a focus of mine and I think that people who knew me would say they could see evidence of that.
How has being a player rep impacted you personally & professionally?
I think it goes back to that leadership experience. It was another opportunity to be in a role and serve the greater good. Finding out the pulse of the locker room and finding out what guys are thinking and feeling, and then being able to propriate that in a larger context with other player reps. I was in that period where we went through a lockout, but again just being a part of the opportunity to represent and serve continued to bolster some of my thoughts and ideas around what leadership really is. The more you get experience and you see the benefits of helping others and serving, the more you want to do it. You find new ideas and insights along the journey. I think being a rep was a good thing, and again just another experience in my journey.
What encouraged you to become a player rep?
I don’t know if I sought it out, I believe that leadership finds you in some degree. I always get a little nervous when you see someone who really wants a position, sometimes you have to wonder the motivation behind it, not always but you have to watch for it. Leadership is hard and so I think it found me. When people know you desire the greater good and what’s best for others then you have an opportunity to be put in a position of leadership. I remember being nominated and saying yes, I will do that!
What advice would you give yourself looking back?
Another great question. I think it’s the same advice I give myself now and would give my future self. Its experiential, the lessons I’ve learned in the last 10 years I would want my 30-year-old self to know. But that’s part of the journey, so I guess it would be to continue to be present and be who you really are in moments that you have opportunities to represent yourself, your family, or whatever organization you are a part of in a way that is consistent with who you really are. That’s the essence of Align’s mission and definitely what I would try to reinforce to my younger self.
Have you taken advantage of any of the services of the PA since retirement?
Yes, obviously being a former Trust Captain I took advantage of a number of different things. Brain and Body comes to mind first, amongst others. On top of that I completed my graduate degree while I was playing. I live in a smaller community, so we don’t really have a Breakfast club, but I think that is a great option for guys to get involved and just be around each other.
To continue what we are doing. It is a real privilege to partner with leaders and I’ve branded this term of intersecting time and purpose. My intersection of time and purpose is partnering with others to help them in their journey towards their own intersection. It’s a fundamental principle of our company so I’ll keep doing that. Who I am and what I do won’t change but environment’s obviously do, and that’s really what’s next for as long as I can see anyway.
Any other thoughts you would like to share?
This is the message I think is important for former players to keep thinking about. Can we believe that our best days are still ahead of us? I think that is a question that once we get settled in our minds, new possibilities begin to emerge for what life can look like. Not the that NFL was not great and wonderful, and I had so many great experiences and memories but in reality, that was, and we are in something different now. So just getting that figured out can be really impactful.