Q&A: Casey Hampton

Casey Hampton is playing at a Pro Bowl level this season. From anchoring a run defense that allows 3.4 rushing yards per carry to running down screens, Hampton is in the midst of his best season.

Casey Hampton, nose tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers

Sorry if I got you out of a meeting.

No, I was playing dominoes.

Just comment on your play lately. You seem to be dominating, especially this past game.

I'm starting to feel better. Last year I felt good but this year I feel a lot better than I did. I feel like I'm getting a lot of my quickness back. I don't think I was as quick last year as I am now.

Is it the knee?

It ain't really the knee. The knee is good. It's just your legs aren't going to be as strong that first year when you come back. Quickness is something you just don't get back. You've got to have some repetition, you've got to play, to regain that, and I'm kind of getting it back a little bit more than I thought I had last year.

Your line coach, John Mithcell, said you turned it around after you failed the run test.

Failed it when? This year?

No, the turning point in your career. Didn't you fail the run test a few years ago?

Oh, yeah, but that ain't nothing. I don't gauge myself off of no run test. I know I can make it if I want to. My thing is I can play. That's the bottom line. A run test? There are a million guys who can run all day but can't play on Sundays. That's my whole thing about the run test, and they know that. And they know I don't care nothing about that run test. I mean, seriously, they know I don't care. If I make it, I make it. If I don't feel like doing it, I'm not going to do it. It's not a major deal to me. It's more for them.

Why do you think Mitch said that?

I don't know because he knows I don't care about that run test. I mean, seriously. All it does is make your legs tired for the next day. I mean, I'm here the whole off-season. I don't miss any workouts. I work out and then I finish when I'm working out with them, so I'm in shape. They know I'm working out, so if they're going to judge whether you're in shape or not with a run test is crazy.

I asked the guys for some of their favorite Casey plays. Aaron Smith said the sack in the Super Bowl. What can you tell me about that play?

It was a big play in the game. I think it was kind of the turning point; that, and when Ike intercepted that pass. It was a big play from the standpoint that I don't get a chance to make plays like that on the quarterback, so to make it to the Super Bowl it was a big play.

Last week San Diego converted both third-and-ones, but you nearly blew up both plays didn't you?

That's what I do. On third down they give you an opportunity to get off the field, so I try to push the line of scrimmage. That's what I want to do a lot more of when we're in our regular defense because I feel I can give them the same thing. But this defense isn't for me to make plays, it's for the linebackers to make plays. So whenever I get the opportunity to do things like that I try to make the most of it.

Did you feel it was a showdown between you and Jamal Williams?

Kind of. I like his game. I think he's a really good nose tackle. But I think the way they let us play is different. I don't want to say it's disappointing, but I know a lot of people say he played better than I played – depending on who you ask. But my thing is he plays a different defense. He doesn't two-gap like I two-gap every play. He just hits the gap and just plays. I feel if I were in that type of defense, I could dominate the game, but I'm not in that situation. Our roles are different but we play kind of the same position. He plays tough in the middle but I think my range is better. I think I run sideline to sideline better than he does. He stops a lot of things in the middle but as far as getting out and running I think I do that better.

Do you enjoy sniffing out those screen passes?

Yeah. That's my type of thing. When he's over there doing good, I want to play good. I'm just a competitive person. That's just how I am. A lot of people say he's one of the better nose tackles, so I just wanted to go out there and show what I can do, but it's hard. It's hard in this defense to prove how good I can be.

What about your downfield tackle of LaDainian Tomlinson?

That's just a part of it, the whole D-line. Coach Mitch tells us about running to the ball all the time and just never giving up on a play and that's a perfect example of it. I think if I don't make the tackle he gets a lot more yards, almost out the gate. As a whole D-line we kind of pride ourselves on making plays like that, of running to the ball, of being first to the ball.

What's the favorite play you've made? Does one stand out?

Not really.

What about that fumble return with the straight arm?

It was a cool play, man, and if I'd have taken it to the house it'd be my favorite play, but I got caught from behind. That's tough. But I can always say I got caught from behind by a running back. It wasn't a lineman that caught me. That's always good.

So you still haven't made your favorite play yet?


I know it's difficult to look inside sometimes, but what's made you such a good-natured guy?

I mean my thing is, man, growing up I've been through so much and been through a lot of things. I'm doing what I love to do, I'm making a lot of money, I can take care of my family. Ain't a whole lot more you could want. You know what I'm saying? There's not a whole lot more you could worry about. I'm doing what I love and I'm good at it and I'm taking care of my family like I want to. Everything else, man, the little things that happen are really, really small and that's just the attitude I take every day. You know what I'm saying? I get more mad about stuff I do on the field than a lot of stuff that happens off the field that a regular person might get mad at. It really doesn't bother me, but I get mad when I'm out there because I want to do so good.

What about that story about when you were in junior high and you fended off an armed burglar? Or was that two burglars?

No, man, I didn't take on no burglar. You're talking about when the dude got shot when he was on my back?

Yes. What was that about?

I was in the house playing a video game and a dude ran into the house trying to get away from the guy who was shooting at him. And I was in the way between the front and the back door. He jumped on my back trying to go over me and the dude shot him when he was on my back. I kind of like threw him off my back and I ran out the back door.

How old were you?

I was in junior high. But I mean, where I grew up it was kind of like that wasn't that far out of the ordinary. It wasn't like I was scared the next day when I went outside in the streets because I was just used to that kind of thing happening. You know what I mean?

That's probably why the little things don't bother you.

Exactly. Exactly. That was kind of like normal.

And we've heard the story about you knowing the President. That's a cool story. He's just one of your boys, huh?

Yeah, that's my guy, man. We used to chop it up back in Texas. We used to talk about a whole lot of stuff. A lot of people say this and that, but we really used to talk about any and everything. It wasn't just like no football-type stuff. We used to talk about anything, crazy stuff.

You used to talk to him while you both rode stationary bikes, right?

Yeah. He used to lift weights, do the machines. We talked mostly when the team would leave and I'd go in to do some extra cardio after practice all the time to keep my weight down. That's when I'd always see him up in there because he'd be in there when we got through.

The guy's been harshly criticized. How do you take that?

It is what it is, man. Me and him got nothing to do with that. That's how I see it. That's what people think. I just stay out of that, man. I mean, he do what he do and it is what it is. I don't have no opinion about it.

And he's still your guy?

No question.

I just read where the coach at your old school says that behind Frank Okam is the next Casey Hampton.

Roy Miller? I know him. I know Frank and Roy. I've been down there and talked to him. They have some good guys. I think Roy's got a long way to go. He's going to be a good player, but we'll see.

Doesn't it make you feel good that people down there are still looking for the next Casey Hampton?

Oh yeah, it's good. It's definitely good. But I was only as good as my guy who was next to me, Shaun Rogers. That's my dog. I mean, I don't ever think there will ever be two as dominant as we were when we were at Texas, and I think we kind of made each other. He was just as dominant as I was in college. If he didn't hurt his ankle, he would've been a top-five pick. There's no question in my mind. I mean, when he wants to, he's probably the best D-tackle in the whole league when he wants to go. I don't want to say, when he wants to play. Let's say, when he has better players around him because he gets double and triple-teamed.

You played with Ricky Williams at Texas, too. Are you surprised how his career turned out?

I'm surprised. Ricky a cool cat. Ricky a good guy. I am real surprised at a lot of things that happened to him because I've always seen him as a good guy. I still see him as a good guy. He just wants to smoke a little dope every now and then and the league has a problem with that. You can't do it. But it ain't like he out there killing nobody. I mean, he don't get in no trouble besides the weed. You know what I mean? (Chuckles). He's a real good guy but he wants to smoke his dope and there's a rule in this league that you can't do that. Bottom line.

Thanks, Casey.


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