Dec. 31, 2009
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MIAMI — There will be big games and postseason opportunities for University of Iowa running back Jewel Hampton. The 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl will not be one of them.
Hampton, the heir apparent to Doak Walker Award-winning running back Shonn Greene, suffered a season-ending knee injury the Tuesday before the Hawkeye’s season-opener against Northern Iowa on Sept. 5. Hampton traveled to Miami with his Hawkeye teammates and his progress, according to Dr. Ned Amendola, director of the UI sports medicine center, is “above the curve.”
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Hampton following Wednesday’s practice at Barry University. “I just started lifting and running not too long ago, so I’m working on my strength and getting that back. I have a little pain running, but I’m doing real well out here.”
As a true freshman in 2008, Hampton rushed for 463 yards and seven touchdowns. He returned 23 kickoffs for an average of 23.3 yards per return with a long of 52. He was expected to be the feature back for the Hawkeyes this season, but all that changed four months ago. In Hampton’s absence, the running chores were split by redshirt freshman Adam Robinson (775 yards, five touchdowns) and freshman Brandon Wegher (528, seven).
“I’ve been trying to give them helpful hints here and there, but I’m not a coach,” Hampton said. “I just do what I can and try to help them out on the field.”
The 10th-rated Hawkeyes won 10 of 12 regular-season games and will play No. 9 Georgia Tech on Tuesday in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Iowa has three more practices before kickoff. While the Hawkeyes focus on Georgia Tech, Hampton focuses on rehabilitation.
“I like being here with the team,” Hampton said. “Rehab is really what I came out here for; to get better by springtime.”
In the 2009 Outback Bowl, Hampton carried the ball 12 times for 54 yards and a long of 13. He finished the 31-10 victory against South Carolina with a higher average per carry than Greene (4.5 to 4.2), who picked up 121 yards on 29 attempts with a long of 11 (and three touchdowns).
“The hardest thing about the injury was coping with it and coming to the realization that I wasn’t going to be able to play,” Hampton said. “You have to move through it and persevere past it. When I come back, the knee’s going to be stronger.”
Hampton said that support from coaches and teammates was instrumental in helping him stay positive following the injury. Now he will be on the sidelines of the FedEx Orange Bowl, encouraging the Hawkeyes as they look for their first BCS victory.
“They’re doing great in practice,” Hampton said. “We did almost the exact same thing last year preparing for South Carolina, so I think it’s going to be a good game.”
It will be a busy New Year’s Day for the Hawkeyes. After an 8 a.m. press conference at Marriott Harbor Beach, Iowa will practice at 11:45 a.m. in Miami Shores and then have a team and family beach outing from 2-6 p.m. at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.