Posted on: January 12, 2012 10:24 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:36 pm
Southern Illinois running back Jewel Hampton is taking advantage of a breakout 2011 campaign in which he led the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 17 touchdowns and 1,121 rushing yards to put his name into the NFL lottery.
The news was broken not by Hampton nor Southern Illinois but by a release from St.Vincent Sports Performance, a Pre-Combine Training group with which Hampton apparently will be working with in preparation for NFL testing. Hampton's name was among 15 prospects St. Vincent listed as having signed with the group for 2012. Most notable among were two other juniors -- former Oregon cornerback and return specialist Cliff Harris and San Diego State star running back Ronnie Hillman.
Hampton transferred to SIU 2011 after being a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes for the past three seasons. Hampton played very well as a true freshman for the Hawkeyes, emerging as Shonn Greene's primary backup and actually setting the school record for first year players with seven rushing touchdowns (along with 463 yards). Expected to take over for Greene in 2009, Hampton instead tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and took a medical redshirt. After a successful rehabilitation, Hampton once again appear poised to compete for big playing time for the Hawkeyes in 2010 but tragically suffered another torn ACL, this time to his left knee.
The loss of back to back seasons due to injury convinced Hampton that a change of scenery was best and he transferred to the Salukis.
He rushed for over 100 yards six times in 2011 and added 163 receiving yards to finish fourth in the MVFC in all-purpose yardage and was named the conference's Newcomer of the Year.
Hampton's path from BCS to FCS is hardly a new one. In fact, the last Saluki to be named the conference's Newcomer of the Year also transferred from a prominent BCS school.
Brandon Jacobs had played behind Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams at Auburn but elected to transfer for his senior season to get a greater opportunity at seeing the field. Jacobs, by comparison, ran for 992 yards and 19 scores for the Salukis in 2004. The New York Giants drafted him in the fourth round (No. 110 overall).
The 5-09, 210 pound Hampton is no Jacobs (6-4, 260) clone but does possess some of the skills to catch the attention of NFL scouts. Hampton is quick to the hole and shows good lateral agility. Due to his low center of gravity and determined running, Hampton is a surprisingly stout load to bring to the ground.
Hampton is currently ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 29 running back in the 2013 class. Considering his injuries and the fact the running back class is shaping up to be 2012's deepest position, Hampton may only get late round or even free agent consideration. Jewel, however, does have enough shine to get an extended look.