Dan Hampton Still Pulls for Razorbacks

Hall of Fame football star Dan Hampton talks fondly about his roots as a Razorback on a trip to Fayetteville to talk to the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club.

Dan Hampton had to take grief from Chicago Bears teammate Steve McMichael about their college playing days, but there was some great fun at the end of last season when Arkansas beat Texas in a bowl game.

"I took some quid from Steve," Hampton said. "I had him over to my house to watch the Razorbacks beat his Texas team in the bowl game.

"He's reminded me often that I was 0-4 against his team during our college days, so this was pay back for me."

Hampton, NFL Hall of Famer with the Bears, talked passionately about his roots with the Razorbacks (1975-78). He also went over his early football days at Jacksonville High School and talked in great respect for Bill Reed, a state championship coach for the Red Devils. Hampton was the speaker Wednesday at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club in Fayetteville.

Hampton played little league football, but thought he was done when he fell out of a tree 40 feet to the ground, breaking bones all over his body. He spent months in a body cast, then was restricted to a wheel chair.

"I had plates in my heel and had trouble running," he said. "The doctors talked about contact sport maybe being out of the question. I took up playing the saxophone. Things were tough. My dad died of pancreatic cancer when I was in the eighth grade."

It was when Hampton was a 10th grader that Reed arrived at Jacksonville and began to build the program "from the grass roots up. He wanted me to play and at first I didn't. It had been tough around there. It's an air base town and people came and went and that's tough for a football program."

Reed did turn the program just about the time Hampton was done, and off to the Razorbacks.

"I got to Fayetteville -- and that's where it was all built for me -- just as they were going through another building process," he said. "The class I was in was  a good one with guys like Jimmy Walker, Dale White, William Hampton and Jim Howard.

It might have been an upset that Hampton made it to college. He struggled in the class room. He said he missed 40 days his senior year.

"Jimmy Johnson came to recruit me," he said. "He came to the English class room and asked if I was there. The teacher said, 'Yes, he is today.' He said he was going to offer me a scholarship and I asked if he had checked my academic record."

Apparently, Johnson had and was sure that Hampton would be eligible, despite standing 612 in a class of 645. Hampton recalls Johnson saying he did really well, but was helped because it was "a really stupid class." Hampton said he was stunned he would be eligible to attend college.

Fast forward to 1977 when Lou Holtz arrived at Arkansas to take over after Frank Broyles retired as head coach.

"We had our first team meeting," Hampton said. "I can remember Lou coming into the room smoking a pipe. I wasn't sure how smart he was when he stuck it in his pocket when he began to talk to us."

One of the first things Holtz did was address team goals. Hampton said he'd never been asked for a goal and was a bit confused on what to write.

"He handed out paper and took it up," he said. "Some put they wanted to be an All-American. Jim Howard put he wanted to date a cheerleader.

"I thought, why not shoot for the best. I said I wanted to win the national championship. Coach Holtz read mine and asked who wrote it. I figured everyone did, but mine was the only hand up.

"He said, 'You misspelled championship, but that's exactly the attitude that we need. Everyone should believe that anything is possible.' The thing was, we came within one game of winning the national championship."

The Hogs lost only to No. 2 Texas, 13-9. The Hogs led until the final minute.

"They had a running back who never caught a pass before or after that game," Hampton said. "He scored in the last minute of the game on a screen pass. Of course, his name was Earl Campbell. It crushed us."

The Hogs later crushed Oklahoma, needing only a victory in the Orange Bowl to win the national championship. The Hogs finished No. 3. They romped over the Sooners, 31-6.

"Oklahoma had All-Americans at every position," Hampton said. "And, we had 88 percent of our offense kicked off the team because of something in the dorm. And we had our All-American offensive guard, Leotis Harris, go down with a knee injury in practices. But we were pretty good."

Hampton said the speech Holtz made the night before the game was clear on what was going to happen.

"He told us that all we had heard about is what we don't have," Hampton said. "He said we still had the number one defense in the country and the nation's number one kicker in Steve Little. We've still got players.

"Then he told us that the only thing he worried about is whether or not OU was going to quit by halftime."

Interestingly, Hampton got a phone call that night from Reed, his high school coach.

"He wanted to know if we needed body bags," Hampton said. "I told him not only were we going to beat OU, we were going to run them out of the stadium."

The question put to Hampton on Wednesday concerned the chances for the Hogs to ever be in such a position again.

"I think you can," he said. "That was 35 years ago, but you can compete and be dominant again. What I hope happens is that Coach (Bret) Bielema rebuilds it and gets great recruits from Fort Lauderdale, Dallas and St. Louis. You can do that.

"I know it takes time. I've seen it happen. I was part of it here. I was part of that building process at Chicago. I saw it happen at Jacksonville High School.

"It's a building process, but football is a lot about catching lightning in a bottle. I see a Razorback team that is trying to get back."

It's clear that Hampton still follows the Razorbacks. He knew the details of last week's victory over Auburn in four overtimes. He also knew about the losses early in the year, especially Toledo.

"It's about building the foundation," he said. "I think they had to get back to the physical nature and to fundamentals of running the ball. Football is still a violent game and the offensive line has to hit someone. Early this year, they were playing eight inches too high in the offensive line. It's always about the fundamentals. That part will never change. I saw the way they ran the ball in the overtime against Auburn.

"I just think it's time to quit thinking of the Razorbacks as dormant and become dominant. It can happen.

"I have great pride in being from this state and being a Razorback. I look back at the Bobby Petrino time and it was crazy. You needed someone you could count on and Bret is that. I think the next thing you know they are going to jump a couple of rungs up on the ladder."

Hampton still likes to recall the Orange Bowl victory over the Sooners. He said the players were never in awe of the Sooners, despite their immense talent and credentials.

"Yes, Oklahoma was talented," he said. "But we were in a much tougher league. The Southwest Conference was good. I don't think their league was nearly what we had to face. We knew that. We watched film and Oklahoma looked fat and sassy. We saw that they didn't finish their blocks and they dropped the ball. We knew we could beat them.

"I also thought it was great that Notre Dame beat Texas and set up what Oklahoma thought was an easy path to the national title, a victory over us. I think they thought they had it. It was like the girl tells you what is going to happen before the date."

Hampton lives in Chicago where he helps host a syndicated television show. And, there are some fun gigs.

"McMichael and I have a band with Otis Wilson," McMichael said. "We had an event Sunday for $10,000. It's a lot of fun. I play the bass guitar and the key board."

And, yes one of the songs they play is from the Beach Boys. It's called Be True to Your School. Hampton still believes in the Razorbacks.

"I used to sing that at practice," he said. "You want your school to be good. You have pride in where you are from and I always have felt that. This is where it started for me. I still remember doing 100 up downs before practice. That's where I was made and I don't forget it."


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