With the 2014 NFL Draft only a few months away, we reached out to some of the draft prospects we believe the Green Bay Packers could target in May. Over the past three weeks we’ve heard from plenty of talented players, like Iowa’s Christian Kirksey and Rutgers’ Brandon Coleman, but none quite as unique and outgoing as the player we hear from today, South Carolina defensive back Victor Hampton.
Hampton played three seasons, two as a starter, in the Gamecocks’ secondary before declaring for the draft this past winter. Hampton is a physical lockdown corner that plays with tremendous energy and passion.
At 5-foot-10 and 202 pounds, many believe the junior from South Carolina could play safety as well at the next level given his solid frame and ability as a tackler. Hampton isn’t afraid to deliver a hit in the open field and he also plays physically against the run.
Hampton is an electric playmaker. He recorded three interceptions, 55 tackles, and nine pass breakups in 2013, while earning second team All-SEC honors. Hampton was also a proficient kick returner at South Carolina, making him a versatile and dynamic player for any team to add to their roster.
Hampton could go as early as the second round in the draft, and would be a great player for a team like the Packers to add to their secondary this offseason.
To learn a little bit more about Hampton, I spoke with him over the phone and I hope you find him as friendly and enthusiastic as I did.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and how did you first get into football?
VH: I’m originally from South Carolina and at a young age I moved to Boston, MA. I played flag football in Boston and was killing everybody at it. I was seven and playing against 15- and 16-year-olds and just dominating. The talent in Boston wasn’t like what it was in South Carolina. It was a tough decision, but my mom decided to move us back to South Carolina so I could be around better talent and get better. I first started playing tackle football in middle school and on my first play in a game I scored a 75-yard touchdown. Then it just went from there.
Q. What led you to play defensive back for South Carolina?
VH: We move around a lot when I was in high school, so that hurt my chances of getting noticed. I originally played on offense in high school and transitioned to cornerback as a junior. I became highly recruited as a DB and I was ranked as the No. 6 CB coming out of high school. I had some interest from different schools, but I chose South Carolina because it seemed like the right fit. I went up to South Carolina as the 23rd ranked corner and I ended up winning the corner of the year award there.
Q. With the college season over, do you have any specific things you’ll be doing in the next few months to get ready for the draft?
VH: Right now, I’m living in Tampa. I train two times a day, six times a week. I’m trying to take advantage of my opportunity. I’m working on improving my 40 time. I would like to run a 4.3 at the combine. That’s my goal. I’d like to open up some eyes. I’m confident in my abilities, but I’d still like to work on my game. I’d like to improve my backpedaling, technique, and overall movement on the field.
Q. Any other parts of your game you’d like to work on improving?
VH: I’d also like to improve my tackling. I missed some tackles this past year. I still had over 55 tackles in the season. I feel like I’m a good tackler, but I still left too many tackles on the field. I want to get back to being a great tackler. I was kind of disappointed in some of my games this past year. I should have made more tackles. I could have been more like a 75-tackle guy. I take pride in my tackling ability. My goal coming in my rookie season is to be a great tackler as a DB and to play physical on the field.
Q. For those of us that haven’t seen you play, describe your style of play. What do you do best on the field?
VH: I’m a tough guy. I’m best at press coverage. I can play off at the same time, but I’m going to be up in the receiver’s face. I’m physical. I also have great hands. I can make those tough interceptions and play the ball in the air. I take confidence in shutting guys down. I don’t let a receiver have a big game and just go off, and I don’t let them get the upper hand. I’m going to play aggressive. I’m not going to let them get screens or easy receptions. I’m also a leader and I like to have fun. I look forward to playing on the field in the NFL and just having fun. I can even showcase some of my dance moves after a big play. I bring a lot of energy to the field.
Q. You seem like a guy that plays with real intensity. How does this help you at the position, and do you take pride in being a physical defensive back?
VH: I take pride in being physical. Just because you’re bigger doesn’t mean you’re going to get the better of me. That’s my attitude when I play. These receivers nowadays are so much bigger than us DBs. I like to be physical with the receivers and let them know I’m there.
Other than quarterback, cornerback is the toughest position on the field. You have to be ready and have that intensity when you play. I enjoy hitting. You got to want to tackle to be good at it. I enjoy playing against the run and being physical.
I’m excited about some of the backs I’ll get to tackle it in the NFL. I was recently talking to Eddie Lacy and he was saying I better hope we’re on the same team so I don’t have to tackle him. Haha. But I love it. I want to take on the big guys like Lacy. I don’t let them run me over. I play physical against them. I don’t back down and I love the challenge.
Q. The Packers will look to bolster their secondary through the draft in May. How would you feel about being drafted by Green Bay?
VH: It’s an opportunity to do something I always wanted to do in my life. It would be a true blessing no matter what team drafts me.
Q. What kind of player would they be getting?
VH: They’d get a guy that wants to work hard. A guy that does a lot of film study. A guy that works to understand scheme and can see a formation before it happens. I work hard in my preparation for the game and the time I put in to be ready for game time. They would see a guy that really loves this sport, is passionate about what he is doing, and will put in the work to be successful at it. I’m a fun guy to be around. I’ll bring a lot of energy to the locker room, and I’ll be a great teammate. I’m very involved when it comes to my teammates, and I try to be friendly and get to know them all.
Q. Do you know anything about the city, fanbase, or team?
VH: I’ve never been to Green Bay, but just from following the league, I know about the Lambeau Leap and how historic the franchise is. I know the fans are crazy supportive up there. I hear it’s a great environment to play in. I’ve heard it’s a college-like environment. Fans show up to every game and pack out the stadium.
Q. If the Packers drafted you, what would you bring to their team?
VH: It depends on where they want me to play at. I could be a special teams guy and return punts or kicks. I can also play on an island as a DB. I want to be one of those guys that can take out half of the field. I want to be a true shutdown corner.
Q. What could you learn from veterans like Tramon Williams and Sam Shields?
VH: I could learn from veterans on how to watch film and be a student of the game. I could learn about quarterback tendencies and game preparation. I want to learn from the other guys and learn how to ask questions. I would ask the veterans some of the toughest things they went through as rookies and how they dealt with those challenges.
Q. Are there any NFL players you model your game after or draw comparisons to?
VH: I like Darrell Revis a lot. I also like up and coming guys like Richard Sherman. I like his intensity and I love the way he plays. I also like Patrick Peterson. He’s a big guy who can shut down receivers. I like Tramon Williams. Every time I watch him he seems to make plays. And I also like Ike Taylor.
Q. Was there a player or team you watched growing up that inspired you to play football?
VH: Growing up, I always liked Steve smith and Randy Moss. I didn’t play defense much until my junior year in high school. I was more of an offensive guy, so I liked to watch great offensive players in the NFL. Of course I also enjoyed watching Deion Sanders. I try to bring that same type of humor and enjoyment of the game to the field. Deion just had fun out there.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your journey to this point. Who have been the most influential people in your life?
VH: Intimate family members have been the most influential. My mom, older brother, and younger sister. My mom was a single mother. She showed me how to never give up and how to never quit and just work hard in life. She told me at a young age to get the word “can’t” out of my vocabulary. My brother was like a father. He taught me so many things and helped raise me. And I’m close with my younger sister. She also goes to South Carolina.
Q. What have been the major challenges to get to this point?
VH: My college career was a bit rough at times. Early on I had some rough patches, but I overcame those. There have been some questions about my character going into the draft because of things in my past, but I can’t dwell on that. These are things that might have hurt my draft stock a bit, but I have to just answer questions honestly and tell scouts or teams that ask me about my past the truth. I own up to mistakes I’ve made and try to show them I’ve moved past that.
Q. You said this might hurt your draft stock. As a player, do you pay much attention to where you’re projected to go in the draft?
VH: I mean not really. I’ve looked at that stuff a little bit, but I try not to focus on it. You just never know where you could be drafted and that is part of why it’s so exciting. Last year there was a DB I played with at South Carolina named Stephon Gilmore. Before the draft he was projected to go in the third round and he ended up being the 10th overall pick in the draft, so you never know.
I feel like I’m a first rounder and that I can compete with the best at my position. I look at the guys they have ranked in front of me and I see myself ranked anywhere from the sixth to tenth corner in the draft. I just think “What have they done in college that I haven’t done?” I played in the SEC against some of the top talent. My resume is decent. I feel like I can play at a high level, so when it comes down to it, I just try not to pay too much attention to it and just work my tail off. I try to not let it bother me because it only takes one team to like you in the draft.
Q. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in you free time?
VH: I love movies. I love to watch and go to the movies. I also like to dance and go and have a good time with my boys. I like to give them some laughs, and I love to joke around. Never in a harmful way. I just like to encourage the guys and have fun. I try to reach out to the quiet guys and make them feel comfortable. I just like being friendly. I’m also a family guy who can get along with any type of person.
Q. Anything else you’d like Packers fans to know about you?
VH: They would love to have me. I am a great energy guy. I put a lot of time in to show fans love whether it’s on twitter or talking with them in person. I try to spend a lot of time responding to fans and just showing them appreciation. I also like to go out and do stuff in the community and show people I care. I like to talk to people about mistakes I’ve made and how to learn and grow from it. I also have a great smile. I try to make an effort to smile a lot. I’m friendly. I’m a great energy guy and whatever team drafts me the fans are going to love me.
Q. Anything else you’d like to say about your game or the type of player you are?
VH: I’m excited about playing in the NFL. I want to be successful at my position. I want to be the best at my position. I would also like to get the ball in my hands more. I miss those days on offense. I wouldn’t mind at all playing a little offense in addition to DB. I would like to show teams some of my offensive talent. Maybe in some special packages I could come in as a receiver or back. I can also return punts and kicks, so the more opportunities I can get to make plays the better. I just love playing the game regardless of where it is at on the field.
Career college stats
• 2013 – 51 tackles, 5 TFL, FF, 9 PBUs, and 3 INTs
• 2012 – 40 tackles, 3 TFL, 6 PBUs, and an INT
• 2011 – 14 tackles, 3 PBUs, and an INT
Film on Victor Hampton
Victor Hampton’s big hit in Capital One Bowl
Victor Hampton against Coastal Carolina: 6 tackles, 3 PBUs, and an INT
Victor Hampton against Mississippi State: 8 tackles, 3 PBUs, and a Forced Fumble