The life of a walkon is harder than the average college player. They pay for their schooling and choose to put any extra time they have into a sport with no rewards other than being on the team. This road is not for the faint of heart and they have to really want to be there. Every now and then though that hard work and sacrifice gets noticed and rewarded with a scholarship.
That very thing happened for Utah senior tight end Ken Hampel who proved Hamp’n - much like ballin’ - is a habit.
“I thought they were messing with me honestly,” Hampel said of the video the team showed during a fall camp meeting to let him know he was officially on scholarship. “I didn’t know till they said it. I eventually got it but I thought they were messing with me. I really didn’t have a clue.”
Being willing to put in hard work without expecting individual praise is what Hampel attributes most to his success with the Utes and is what he thinks makes this team so strong as a whole unit. “Shut your mouth, put your head down and keep working hard,” he said. “Hopefully good things will happen.”
Hampel’s journey started on the scout team in 2012 and from there he’s earned more and more recognition with the coaches and team. He got his first start at tight end against USC in 2015 and his first downs against Arizona State that same season that included his first reception of 29 yards.
“My buddy’s uncle graduated from here in 2012- Joape Pela. He helped me out, got my stuff in and got me over here,” Hampel said. “All of the coaches honestly are always helping out. I started on scout team with Scalley, all the tight end coaches back then too.”
Playing on the scout team is something Hampel takes pride knowing he was out there helping the team get better as a whole- especially during a period of time when it was in question just how successful the Utes could be in the PAC-12. “You get to get the defense better and you get to have fun while you are doing it,” he said. “You’re out here playing football, I mean, how many other people in the country can say they are out there playing a sport still at this age?”
Hampel says he’s also learned a lot from his teammates in the tight end position group. “It’s fun, it’s really fun. I feel bad for Siale [Fakailoatonga],” he said of his teammate who is out for the season with a knee injury. “I wish Siale was still out here with us but it’s always fun. We can always ask each other questions.”
This spring Hampel plans on walking at graduation but is open to what his future may hold next. “I have to finish up a couple of classes in the summer and then I’m not sure,” he said. “I want to do Pro Day next semester. It won’t really do anything but just to do it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Maybe go to grad school. I’m not sure yet.”
Coaching is one avenue Hampel would be willing to explore, even if it’s simply more of a hobby to share with others what he has learned over the years. “My high school coaches have said ‘you would be a good coach’. I don’t know,” he said. “It’s hard to get into at this level at least, but if I wanted to I could coach at a high school or something. Just to give back.”
Hampel hopes to leave the Utes and the fans with a season to remember and the knowledge he gave his very best to the team everyday he was there. “I did all I could do for the team,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a very memorable season this year.”