Saquan Hampton entered his sophomore season poised to break out as the starting free safety before a shoulder injury derailed those hopes.
Hampton missed five games over the span of the next month and was not at full strength until after the season ended.
“It was frustrating just watching everything unfold from the sidelines,” Hampton said. “But I just had to be there for my teammates and cheer them on and just push them. Being healthy now is always good.”
After an offseason of recovery, Hampton returned for his third spring camp back to 100 percent. He remains in top physical shape with the final week of practice underway.
“Right now, I’m 100-percent healthy,” he said. “So I’m playing much faster, and that’s a good thing, that’s a good sign for me.”
Defensive backs coach Bill Busch watched Hampton battle through the injury all season long. Hampton’s toughness did not go unnoticed.
“I appreciate how tough he is,” Busch said. “He basically played with one arm. He probably, by the Maryland game, was probably another 15, 20 percent. But he came back, and we had him strapped up and stuff with what he had to do with that.
“So we haven’t even come close to seeing right there. We knew what his talent level was going into the season, expected a great season but then you go from that to not practicing for six, seven weeks and then come back right there, but he’s such a tough kid. I’m very, very impressed with where he’s headed.”
Busch continues to push Hampton because he knows what he is capable of.
“I’ve developed a lot,” Hampton said. “He’s on me every day about just making sure that I have good pre-snap awareness of what offense is doing, have this certain formation. So meeting with him and just picking his brain has helped me a lot.”
Expectations are nothing new to Hampton. In training camp last August, head coach Chris Ash said the Hamilton (N.J.) Nottingham product had the potential to become a star in the secondary.
Hampton remembers those remarks and lets the comments drive him.
“It pushes me coming from a guy like coach Ash who’s been around the coaches and the players that he’s been around,” Hampton said. “So I just know that if I buy in and just work hard each and every day and attack each day with the right attitude and mindset, that some day, that can possible come true.”
With the spring game set to wrap up camp at the end of the week, Hampton has the collective goals of the team ahead of his own. Now a veteran member of the defense, Hampton has a leader’s mentality.
“By the end of the spring, I just want to make sure each of our brotherhoods are getting tighter and closer because, ultimately, that’s how we’re going to play good together, play good on defense and on offense,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure our brotherhoods are together, and we all attack each day with the right attitude and mindset.”