September 22, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks cornerback Victor Hampton (27) participates in the Gamecock Walk before their game against the Missouri Tigers at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Victor Hampton Project

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Undrafted free agent Victor Hampton seems to be the kind of guy who likes to overcome challenges, yet the issue is that he provides himself with the challenges. He’s an intriguing prospect with some really great traits to contribute to a football team, but his intangibles don’t seem to translate to his off-the-field life. His “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” persona puts teams in a real conundrum; maybe its the fact that the word “persona” came to mind, when deciding how to describe Hampton, that put teams off. Teams have had a real issue deciphering who the real Victor Hampton is and within a deep class of cornerbacks this year, along with a solid crop of safeties, it seems they’ve decided to go with the easier route when it comes to their cornerback choices.

On the one hand Hampton has been the definition of a red-flag all the way back to his high school days. He was dismissed from one of his several high school teams. He was committed to Florida prior to their removal of their offer because of character concerns. He was arrested before his South Carolina career even began due to underage drinking. He was redshirted for a year, which one would assume would be for maturation purposes, and then was dismissed from the team before being brought back and suspended for three games to start his redshirted freshman year. After a “quiet” time regarding his issues, he violated team rules and didn’t start for two games and then was arrested for disorderly conducted stemming from an altercation with his sister.

Then there’s the other Victor Hampton. He’s a team leader on the field, vocal and the kind of leader who inspires those around him. He was a productive player in the SEC often lining up against the opposition’s most effective targets and often did well to curb their impacts. He finished his final year with 51 tackles (43 solo), 5 TFL, 9 pass deflections, 3 INTs, and a forced fumble. This all after a productive sophomore season. He helped South Carolina finish nearly in the top 10 of college defenses in both yards against and points against. Needless to say he was a quality player and team leader in college football’s toughest and most NFL-ready conference. Hampton also began to excel off the field. He was a participant in a reading program for the youth and often spoke at local schools. He gathered praise from his coaches as a guy who learned from his past issues and matured during his later college years. Seemingly a very different guy while in the football environment.

And then he was investigated regarding an incident at a New York City nightclub during the pre-draft process. He was cleared of any wrongdoing but the fact that he needed to explain another incident was extremely detrimental considering his long list of past transgressions; right when teams may have had some possible confidence in his maturation. Considering all these issues, teams were bound to question Hampton and consider the many other promising prospects in this draft.

Nearly two weeks have passed since the draft. I’m sure Victor Hampton has been praying a whole lot and reconsidering all the choices he’s made in his life, the people he’s associated with, and possibly even what to do going forward. Following the draft he tweeted, “I promise I’m not a bad person.” From the looks of his past, the only thing that has allowed Hampton to mature and focus has been the football environment. Although his combine performance showed he lacked speed, he proved he has strength and quickness. He’s not a leaper but an instinctive player who uses his football IQ and timing to make an impact on the field. Getting away from his roots in North and South Carolina may be an opportunity for Hampton to remove some of the off-field distractions and allow his full focus to be on football. The Cincinnati Bengals may be the perfect team for Hampton, possessing a proclivity for and effectiveness with UDFAs who have checkered pasts. They also have players who could relate well to Hampton and give him guidance. Hampton could contribute as another quality player while possessing the quickness, IQ, and toughness to be a stud in the slot or transition to safety. Anyone interested in the next Vontaze Burfict?

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