LaMar "Soup" Campbell has been a valuable member of the Bears organization since he was hired as director of player engagement in 2017.
But with COVID-19 and widespread civil unrest following George Floyd's death creating stress, tumult and uncertainty, Campbell's work with Bears players has never been more crucial—or appreciated.
"I do think it's very important that his name is recognized because this is life," said coach Matt Nagy. "This isn't football. That is why he's our director of player engagement. He does a really, really good job of understanding what these players are going through on a daily basis, not even just in 2020 but in prior years. He builds unbelievably great relationships with them. They trust. They understand.
"He does the same with the coaching staff, with Ryan Pace in personnel. [Campbell] is the conduit to making this thing go in times like this. We rely on him. We listen to Soup. We take advice from him; we balance it and then we put it all together. We wouldn't be here without him. He's done a great job."
In his role with the Bears, Campbell helps players deal with issues they're experiencing on and off the field, focusing on their personal and professional growth. He coordinates a variety of programs for veterans and rookies and provides guidance, support and resources to players and their families. It could be assisting them find a place to live, an offseason internship or a charity to support that matches their interests.
In recent months, Campbell has helped players navigate unprecedented times as they participate in the Bears' virtual offseason program.
I do think it’s very important that [Campbell’s] name is recognized because this is life. Bears coach Matt Nagy
"I've never FaceTimed this much," Campbell said Thursday night on the Bears All-Access radio show on WSCR 670 AM. "I really wasn't a FaceTimer until COVID-19 hit. But I've been FaceTiming a lot of the guys, especially the new guys, getting to know them, but also making sure the core guys that have been in the building since I've been here are OK.
"It kind of fits with their era a little bit. They text message a lot, they FaceTime. When COVID hit, that was something that they were very easily adaptable to and that's what we've been doing, just making sure that these guys stay in contact. Whether it's a joke, whether it's a motivational quote, whether it's something I know a guy likes to read, just making sure the players are in the right mindset, because right now everyone is being asked to do usual things in unusual times."
Campbell helped set up Monday's two-hour video team meeting that has been described as powerful, emotional and life-changing. The Bears spent the entire session discussing Floyd's death and the unrest that has followed as well as racial injustice and police brutality.
"If I had to use a word, it would be 'transformational,'" Campbell said. "I think a lot of guys opened up their eyes to what their teammates were going through. I think everyone was educated, and for the first time this offseason, I felt as though on that call we were all in the same room. It was that powerful of a call."
Campbell relates well to NFL players in part because he once was one, appearing in 64 games with 18 starts over five seasons with the Detroit Lions from 1998-2002. A defensive back who entered the league as an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin, Campbell registered one career interception, picking off Brett Favre and returning it 42 yards for a touchdown in a 2000 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Drawing on his playing experience enables Campbell to maintain an even-keeled, level-headed approach regardless of the situation.
"I always teach my guys it's always the battle between logic and emotion," he said. "It's easy to go the emotional route. But to take a step back and go the logical route is really what I believe sharpens you as a man with your responsibilities.
"And especially with what's going on right now, I try to move more in strategy than emotion, to be that calm voice in the room, to really think things through and not really react with emotion. And then with everything going, as a minority man, as a black male, it's important to me to be my best self at all times; my best self as a father, my best self as a director of player engagement, and the best as a leader of men. I always keep that on my mind. Whenever things happen, whenever things start to go crazy, I focus on the calmness and trying to make sure I'm thinking strategy and logic before I think emotion."