Taking over for a highly decorated, massively productive running back is nothing new for Jewel Hampton. The 5-foot-9, 210-pounder did the same thing in high school as he sat for a couple of years behind record-setting running back Darren Evans before finally getting his chance to shine as a senior. Now, Hampton hopes to seize a similar opportunity at Iowa where he is the favorite to replace consensus All-American Shonn Greene, who moved on to the NFL this year.
"It's a unique comparison because it takes a special kind of person to do that," said Steve Tutsie, who coached Hampton and Evans at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis. "I've seen it all over the papers asking how they are going to replace Shonn Greene. Well, it was the same thing for us at Warren Central. Everyone asked how in the world we were going to replace Darren Evans after he left for Virginia Tech. Well, we did it with Jewel Hampton and we didn't miss a beat."
Hampton, who ran for 513 yards as a backup in his junior year of high school, moved into the starting lineup for the first time as a senior at Warren Central in 2007. He immediately hit the ground running, finishing with 2,095 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns despite a revamped offensive line.
"The thing I don't think people understand about Jewel's last season is we didn't have a very good offensive line," Tutsie said. "We lost a lot of kids and were really inexperienced up there, so Jewel was doing a lot of that on his own."
Coming in as a true freshman at Iowa, Hampton got his feet wet playing in a reserve role as Greene's backup last year. He finished the 2008 season with 91 carries for 463 yards and seven touchdowns. The Indianapolis native probably saw his most extensive playing time in his home state where he racked up 114 yards and three touchdowns in the Hawkeyes' 45-9 win over the Hoosiers last October.
While no one expects Hampton to match Greene's record-setting production from last year, there is a lot of optimism surrounding Iowa's offense going into the season. The Hawkeyes return an experienced line upfront and will be looking to keep things rolling on the ground whether it is with one guy or multiple backs. This off-season, Hampton has been hard at work as he looks to take the reins.
"I think the best thing about Jewel, and if you ask Coach Doyle I bet he would tell you the same, is I can't believe there's anybody that works harder in the weight room," said Tutsie. "He is all about business. He doesn't need any of the hype. He's not going to fall prey to expectations. All that's important is what he can control. He knows what he needs to do and he's going to do it."