WEST POINT, Miss. (WJTV) — It’s cliché to say “the sky’s the limit,” but that phrase rings true to Jackson State linebacker Keonte Hampton.
“I’m very competitive and I take this football stuff very serious. I live and breathe football.”
That’s the reason Hampton has a catalog of accolades, from SWAC Defensive Player of the Year honors to being named a 2019 Conerly Trophy finalist — totaling 106 tackles and a league-high 69 solo stops.
“And the best thing about him is, we got two more years with him,” said Jackson State head coach John Hendrick.
Hampton said his drive to be the best on the field emanates from his upbringing in West Point, Mississippi.
“It’s a small friendly environment, it’s a football town, we take football very serious,” Hampton said. “Very serious. That’s all we care about, other than mud-riding.”
The Green Wave is known for winning state championships. Hampton won one his senior season, but going into that year he only had offers from junior colleges.
“I wasn’t getting looked at at like I really got my first offer senior year,” Hampton said. “It was by East Mississippi.”
Until John Hendrick, the then defensive coordinator at Jackson State, showed up at his door.
“I believe all those mid-majors messed up,” said Hendrick. “I believe Memphis and Southern Miss and [Louisiana-Lafayette] and [Louisiana] Monroe, I believe they missed one.”
As defensive coordinator, Hendrick recruited the Golden Triangle in northern Mississippi.
“He has that chip because he would be playing at all of them. He would be starting at all of them.”
And, that chip on his shoulder is why he’s already garnered 4 All-American honors, but the laurels aren’t important to Hampton.
“I’m too big on that, I like to win,” he said. “Where I’m from, West Point, we only care about winning. We don’t care about accolades and all that. It’s a team sport so we just want to win, but it’s a blessing to get those things though.”
“People wonder why he shows up because he can see it ahead of time, he’s got an instinct for playing the game,” Hendrick said. “I knew that he had that great instinct. I was concerned about his size. The only thing I was concerned about him, when I started recruiting him he was 5-11 about 190 pounds. I’m blessed because I didn’t know he was going to come to college and grow three inches.”
And, he played all 12 games last season injured.
“If we can get a full heathly season out of him, it will be unbelievable numbers because he’s just that guy,” said Hendrick. “He’s instinctive, hard-nose, old fashioned kind of football player. That’s what I love about him.”
Hampton also touched on Jackson State’s 4-8 season and what the team is doing to rectify that. The full interview is below: