Calais Campbell likes to dine and dash.
Well, technically the fourth-year Arizona Cardinals defensive end isn't eating. He's just making a brief appearance at the mandatory training camp meals before exploring his culinary options on the outside.
"Sometimes I swipe my card, then go eat at a restaurant," Campbell says. "Like the other day I heard of a low-key Mexican spot that I had to check out. It was pretty good."
He says the coaches don't mind the dining hall jailbreaks. They just want to make sure the players are replacing the thousands of calories they're burning daily. The team provides three meals and a snack. Campbell says it isn't bad, and only ventures out occasionally. There are always sandwiches, pasta and burgers at camp, and a rotating option such as Mexican or Chinese.
But you can't pass off General Tso's chicken on him. Campbell spent time in Hong Kong during the lockout and got a taste for the authentic.
"The food was so good out there," he says, "especially the fresh seafood. I didn't dabble too much with the crazy stuff because I wasn’t sure what to go for, but everything was really good."
Campbell has been traveling almost non-stop during the offseason. He spent time in his old college town, Miami; hung out with teammates in Arizona; and even held an internship out in L.A. at Funny Or Die with Will Ferrell. ("That’s a funny dude.") But the one place he had to go was back home to Colorado, where he grew up. Literally and figuratively.
That’s where he learned to cook at a young age, as did many of his seven brothers and sisters. Their mother handled most of the meals and the amount of food it took to feed the family of 10 was staggering.
"She made miracles happen," Campbell says of his mom.
A Louisiana native, she raised the family on soul food staples like sweet potatoes, corn bread and fried catfish. By the time Calais was a senior in high school, he was 6-8 and listed at 230 lbs.
"I was even lighter than that," he confesses. "I lied a little about my weight so scouts wouldn't be scared to come look at me. But I was probably 210."
Campbell hit the weights and silverware hard at Miami, filling out to around 275. Four years into his NFL career, he's trampling offensive lineman at 300 lbs.
"I love it all," he says. "I'm kinda fat at heart."
That could describe Campbell's generosity as well. He has his own foundation and will switch from diner to waiter on September 5th at Flemings Steakhouse in Chandler, Ariz. to serve dinner to those coming out to support the fundraiser. Teammates Beanie Wells and first round draft pick Patrick Peterson will be among the other Cardinals helping out. In the meantime, they're getting plenty of practice carrying their own trays at training camp.
That is, when Campbell doesn’t have other plans.