College Days: Dan Hampton

College Days: Dan Hampton

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Each week throughout the 2013 season, Profootballhof.com recaps the college days of a pro football legend.

Dan Hampton
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2002

It may be hard to believe that someone whose nickname is “Danimal” did not immediately gravitate to the game of football, but that was the case for Dan Hampton. The Hall of Fame defensive lineman, who earned his handle for his ferocious play on the field, initially shied away from the game.

Hampton grew up on a farm near Cabot, Ark. which is about 30 miles northeast of Little Rock. As a young child he broke both of his legs after he fell 45 feet from an Elm tree and was confined to a wheelchair for six months. He credited his survival to strong bones thanks to drinking a gallon of unpasteurized milk each day. Then, in the eighth grade, he joined his junior high football team for two-a-day practices. After three sessions he complained to his mother about how it hurt to play the game, promptly quit and joined the school band. 

Dan is one of two Hall of Famers to play at Arkansas. Lance Alworth is the other. 
Ron Mayton, an assistant football coach at Jacksonville High School, however, continually pleaded with the large-framed Hampton to the join the team. The coach finally succeeded and Hampton joined the squad as he entered the 11th grade.  He was inserted at right offensive tackle and by the end of the year Hampton had started to turn heads.

“He would block three people at once – tackle, nose guard and linebacker – by just running straight ahead and spreading his arms,” Mayton later reflected.

As a senior, Hampton started at defensive end and offensive tackle and played well enough to earn prep All-American honors. A scholarship offer from Arkansas soon followed, Hampton gladly accepted.

Hampton lettered as a defensive lineman in all four seasons he played with the Razorbacks. Early in this college career, however, he never made a huge impact on the field. Before his junior year a few NFL scouts traveled to Arkansas to try out players with pro potential. All of them walked away unimpressed by the 240-pound Hampton who ran the 40-yard dash in a relatively slow 5.1 seconds and had a vertical jump of 26 inches.

Motivated by the poor showing, Hampton immediately embarked on an aggressive training program in which he lifted weights for three hours a day, six days a week. When the same scouts arrived back on campus before Hampton’s senior year; they could not believe what they saw. Hampton had packed on 20 pounds of muscle, decreased his 40 time to 4.8 seconds and increased his vertical jump to 31 inches.

The now 6-5, 260-pound defensive tackle helped lead Arkansas to a 9-2 record. He made 98 tackles, 18 of them behind the line of scrimmage, recovered two fumbles and was named to the All-American team. The Hogs reached the Fiesta Bowl and earned a No. 10 final ranking by UPI. His efforts also earned him the Southwestern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award and Lineman of the Year award.

The Chicago Bears were captivated enough with his talents to select Hampton with the fourth overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft. Hampton was an impact player as a rookie. In his first season he was credited with 70 tackles, 48 of which were solo efforts, as well as two fumble recoveries, three passes defensed, and two sacks. He would go on to play 12 seasons with the Bears. Six times he earned first- or second-team All-Pro honors as either a defensive tackle or defensive end.

Dan’s HOF Bio>>>
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