From misfit to role model: Vic Hampton has learned from his mistakes, hopes others can, too

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 31, 2013 

South Carolina Gamecocks cornerback Victor Hampton (27) warms up during practice at Celebration High School in Kissimmee, FL, Saturday, December 28, 2013.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

  • DEFENSIVE BACK-U

    Vic Hampton will skip his final USC season and enter the NFL draft, joining a long list of former Gamecocks defensive backs.

    A look at their seasons.

    ANTONIO ALLEN

    FS, New York Jets

    Had two blocked punts, 61 tackles, a sack, one interception and two TDs.

    JOHNATHAN JOSEPH

    CB, Houston

    Had 47 tackles, 16 defended passes and three picks before torn toe ligament.

    DARIAN STEWART

    SS, St. Louis

    Had 36 tackles, five defended passes and one forced fumble.

    CAPTAIN MUNNERLYN

    CB, Carolina

    Has 73 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, and two TDs for playoff-bound Panthers.

    STEPHON GILMORE

    CB, Buffalo

    Had 35 tackles, 10 defended passes and two interceptions.

    DUNTA ROBINSON

    CB, Kansas City

    Has 13 tackles and four defended passes. The Chiefs play the Colts in playoffs.

    D.J. SWEARINGER

    SS, Houston

    Had 71 tackles, one pick, a forced fumble and one recovered blocked field goal.

    (Note: Chris Culliver of the 49ers missed the season with an injury, and Akeem Auguste is on the Seattle practice squad.)

— Victor Hampton’s past has some forgettable moments.

South Carolina’s junior cornerback was kicked off of three high school football teams and nearly kicked off of the Gamecocks squad more than once. It’s the kind of story most people would want to bury. Instead, Hampton trots it out every chance he gets.

“There were a couple times I was almost out of here, so I had to learn,” Hampton said. “I am just grateful I got a chance to go through those things and learn from them.”

Now Hampton wants others to learn from his mistakes, which is why he has become South Carolina’s go-to player for speaking engagements with school children. Hampton is a veteran of the Richland County Public Library’s Pigskin Poets program, which gathers South Carolina football players to read to local children, and a regular speaker at area schools.

“The people that work here see how good I am with the kids and how much it means to me,” Hampton said. “They know I am not fake with it. I don’t know, it’s just my personality. I don’t have a specific reason. I guess I vibe well with them.”

Hampton is always a hit at Hand Middle School, said B-Linda Rogers, Hand’s parent-community liaison.

“He definitely is real with them,” Rogers said. “They see, I can make mistakes and still come back from that.”

Hampton now finds himself thankful for his struggles, he said, because they’ve given him a message to take to children.

“Everything usually comes off the top of my head and from the heart, but I have a main message — just learning from your mistakes,” he said. “I try to go and present what I have done, the mistakes I have made, just tell them they can still make it.”

Hampton’s transformation from misfit to motivational speaker has not gone unnoticed by his coaches. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has not always been Hampton’s biggest fan but has noticed a dramatic change in his best cornerback recently, Spurrier said.

“Victor has really come around and been an excellent teammate and a fun guy to coach the last half of this season,” Spurrier. “He’s had some issues in the past, but he has been outstanding the last 10 or 12 weeks for us.”

Secondary coach Grady Brown is in his second season at South Carolina and missed most of Hampton’s transgressions at the school, but he knows the history.

“We’ve all done things at 18 or 19 that we wouldn’t do at 22,” Brown said. “I have done things at 23 and 24 that I don’t now at 36. It’s just a process. Everybody goes through the maturity process at different rates, but one thing I knew about Vic Hampton when I met him is that he was a good person.”

Hampton, a junior who has 45 tackles this season and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions, will skip his final collegiate season and enter this spring’s NFL draft. His coaches will send him off with a much greater sense of optimism than they would have thought possible.

“I am happy at the progress he has made,” Brown said, “and I look forward to continuing being a part of his life and see him reach his potential as a person.”

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