Turning a corner

Zach Hampton showed this spring that he can be a productive player at his new position

MADISON — Zach Hampton's heel was still hurting him Saturday, but he did not show any hitches in his stride on a 59-yard interception return for touchdown in the University of Wisconsin's annual spring football game.

In addition to his second interception in the past two spring games, Hampton had five solo tackles Saturday, including one for loss, and an assisted tackle.

All this from an injured player still learning the ropes at cornerback, after spending time at wide receiver and free safety earlier in his Badger career.

"It's a whole different dimension," Hampton said of playing cornerback. "I'm learning, having fun and I just feel good about it."

Hampton was a free safety last season, splitting time with the second team with then-freshman Shane Carter. Hampton has been one of the Badgers' best special teams players the past two seasons, and he also contributed in the nickel last season.

This spring, though, the Badgers shifted him to cornerback for two reasons: they desperately needed players at that position, and Carter has emerged as the heir apparent to senior Roderick Rogers at free safety.

After Saturday's spring game, Hampton said he harbored no reservations for his latest of several collegiate position changes.

"I knew Shane was going to be the future at free safety and I just thought I'm going to help the team out any way I can," Hampton said, "and I just saw it as kind of a challenge too and I wasn't going to shy away from it and I just went after it."

It has not been an easy transition, but Hampton, who is a very capable athlete, has adjusted well to corner in a short period of time. And it is very difficult to get a true gauge of Hampton's potential at corner, since he was hampered by a heel injury since the second practice of the spring. Initially following the injury, he missed three consecutive practices over the course of a week.

"(My heel) was kind of nagging me all spring," Hampton said. "Eventually it got a little better and my technique got a little better throughout the spring and I'm feeling pretty confident right now. But I know I've got a lot more to go to get to where I need to be."

Hampton was not fully recovered for the spring game.

"Not at all," he said. "I'll be limping out of here when I walk away. It's just a deep heel bruise. Every practice I hurt it. Every single practice I'd like come up on it, just a run fit or something, and I'd be stamping my foot in the ground, and it hurt a lot. So I'd take a little break, take a five-minute break and then get back in there. It's not anything that's going to hold me out. It's just something that if you hit it and jar it real hard you know you've got to take a little time and then just come back a little bit later and it's not too bad." The injury to his right heel led Hampton to overcompensate on his left foot, leading to pain in that arch.

"I ice (both feet) probably three or four times a day every day… just so I could play today, could practice," Hampton said. "Now I'm going to get a little break and take some time off, let that heal up. It should heal fine. There's nothing like bad damage or anything like that."

Hampton made a lot of plays Saturday, including a tackle for a one-yard loss when he upended fullback Bill Rentmeester and tailback Jamil Walker.

The interception, however, was the play of the day.

"We were in a zone D I think," Hampton said. "(Wide receiver Paul Hubbard) ran a good route and I was kind of behind on it and the pass was a little behind him and he went back for it and I don't know if he got one or two hands on it. I was just reaching in trying to knock it down and for some reason I got my hand all the way around it and it stuck. So I was gone."

Did he catch it one-handed?

"I'm pretty sure it was one hand that pretty much brought it all in," Hampton said.


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