A Gamecock in the Magic Kingdom

nwhite@thestate.comDecember 27, 2013 

— IN SPORTS

Victor Hampton stood at the entrance of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on Friday afternoon with a delighted expression on his face.

The South Carolina junior cornerback was making his first visit to the famed theme park as part of the Capital One Bowl festivities to see what the fuss was all about.

“I’m happy. It looks happy here,” Hampton said. “It’s kind of hard to come in here with an attitude. I’m going to have a good time.”

Hampton skipped the park visit during USC’s 2011 trip to Orlando but figured that he couldn’t pass up the experience a second time.

“I’ve got to take full advantage of it. I just heard it’s a great place and a great environment,” Hampton said. “I’m going to try the rides out and try to learn. I never was a Disney person, but while everyone loves Mickey Mouse, I want to learn a little more about the other characters.”

His personal tour guide was Shaun Phillips, the football team’s massage therapist and a Disney veteran.

“He’s a good guy,” Phillips said of his ride partner.

After a stroll down Main St. USA, the pair quickly jumped on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, where Hampton racked up an impressive 95,000 points shooting aliens with his laser gun.

Hampton also gave a thumbs-up to the Little Mermaid ride, saluting the informative video on that one, and the iconic Space Mountain roller coaster, with its twists and turns through the darkest reaches of outer space.

“It was dark and adventurous, but I wasn’t nervous. I’m not a little kid anymore,” he said.

The 5-foot-10, 202-pound Hampton isn’t nervous about his future either. The redshirt junior plans to enter the NFL draft in the spring even though he has one season of eligibility remaining at USC. He’s ready to test himself against the best players in the professional ranks as soon as the Gamecocks take care of business against Wisconsin in the bowl game.

“I want to perform well and leave a great legacy here,” he said. “I want to play a great game and come out with a ‘W’ and celebrate with my teammates.”

The Darlington native made 45 tackles with a team-high three interceptions and nine pass breakups this season while earning All-SEC second-team honors. He is going to start his performance training Jan. 6 in Tampa, Fla., which will prepare him for the NFL combine as well as USC’s pro day in the coming months.

“I’ve got to gear it up,” Hampton said. “After this game, it’s about grinding (to get better) and getting as fast as I can and performing well in the drills. I’ve got to show them that I’m really the player that they think I am.”

He would love to move up the draft charts of NFL teams just like former USC cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Buffalo Bills.

“I feel like I’m a first-round talent,” Hampton said. “I’ll be grateful to get drafted, but with the competitiveness and pride that I have, I want to be a first-round guy. That’s what I’m aiming for.”

As he walked through the Magic Kingdom, he was enjoying his first visit before life gets more serious. Wearing his USC warmup suit, the smiling Hampton showed off his infectious personality as he posed for quite a few pictures along the way. Trish McFarlan, an Orlando resident and Auburn graduate, spotted his outfit and had to stop him.

“I just saw the logo and had to get a picture for a friend of mine who’s a South Carolina fan,” she said. “I always root for the SEC teams.”

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