Dan Hampton, 1982 PFW Defensive MVP and Hall of Famer, will be at Legends LIVE

September 6, 2018

Dan Hampton is one of six Pro Football Hall of Famers who’ll be in attendance as we unveil the entire Team For the Ages at “Football Legends LIVE!” Sept. 8 in Crystal Lake, Ill. Tickets are on sale now: https://shawmediaevents.com/e/pfw50

This feature originally ran in Pro Football Weekly, Vol. XVI, No. 25, Jan. 24, 1983

Does the selection of Chicago Bear DT Dan Hampton as the 1982 Defensive Player of the Year by Pro Football Weekly, a Chicago-based publication, smack of favoritism?

It has all the symptoms, doesn’t it? Except that he won this award fair and square.

We like Dan Hampton. For a lot of reasons.

We like the way he psyches himself up on game days, listening to Merle Haggard, spurred on by songs about workin’ people, just like the Arkush brothers.

AND, YES, THERE ARE SOME pretty dumb reasons, like the fact Dan Hampton and Dan Arkush, PFW’s managing editor, each managed to break both of their legs at the age of 12 by falling out of a tree, then spending the next six months in a wheelchair (quite a coincidence, huh)?

But let’s not forget by far the biggest reason.

Hampton deserves the award.

When you stop to consider this was his first season in the pros as a full-time defensive tackle, it becomes quite clear that Dan Hampton had a damn impressive season, certainly as good as the assorted players who received ballots for an award that easily featured the most crowded race for votes.

It should be noted that Hampton earned the award by the narrowest of margins, one vote, to be precise. Seven of the PFW balloters are Chicago residents; all but two of them passed Hampton over as their first choices, despite a legitimate temptation to pick him on merit. They no doubt considered the fact that the Bears finished 3-6. And they probably considered the “favoritism” angle, too. No matter, Hampton warranted consideration by every voter, based on facts and solid logic.

FOR STARTERS, THERE’S THE opinion among numerous personnel experts around the NFL that, at the moment, Hampton could command more on the open market than any player in the league. At the age of 25, he’s already a full-blown, honest-to-God defensive tackle, and, if you stop to realize how long it normally takes for a player at the position to get down the proper techniques, you can see how special Hampton is.

Bears head coach Mike Ditka knows.

“It’s hard to say who is the best, but there is none better in pro football,” Ditka says of the long-legged, 255-pound Hampton, an awesomely intense performer who spares us the Mark Gastineau theatrics. “Week in and week out, he rates the highest.

“I’ve never seen a player with more ability,” said Jim Osborne, who plays alongside Hampton on the Bear defensive line. He amazes you and does it against the best.”

HAMPTON WAS SWITCHED TO tackle this season after making 48 consecutive starts at end, a move designed to enable Al Harris (a No.1 pick in ’79, the same as Hampton) to work his way into the starting lineup. At first, Hampton wasn’t crazy about the idea. But he gritted his teeth and made the adjustment. Superbly.

Hampton’s high point, as far as publicity is concerned this past season, came in the game against New England the first weekend in December, the game in which he went head-on against perennial All-Pro OG John Hannah. Hampton whipped Hannah every which way but loose.

“It’s not the first time I got my rear end handed to me, and it won’t be the last,” said Hannah after the 26-13 Patriot loss, in which he allowed Hampton to get by him twice for blood-curdling QB sacks.

But as good as Hampton was against Hannah, the matchup was slightly flawed by the fact Hannah hadn’t played the week before because of a knee injury.

BUT HAMPTON HAD BETTER games this season, anyway. He finished the year as the Bears’ leading sacker with nine and also was the NFL’s top defensive tackle in this department.

“I’ve never seen anyone have a better defensive game than Dan Hampton did in the Detroit game in the opener,” said Ditka of Hampton’s first game of the ’82 campaign. “And I’ve seen Randy White and a lot of great defensive players with the Dallas Cowboys.”

One week later, though, Hampton continued to get better, the only Bear to distinguish himself in an embarrassing 10-0 shutout before the Soldier Field home folk. Hampton destroyed All-Rookie OG Brad Edelman, making an amazing 13 tackles and three assists.

It seemed a virtual certainty Hampton was on the verge of national recognition after that game, but then the strike put a temporary end to those nifty little short spots by Irv and Phyllis, and one big Bear was stopped dead in his tracks.

When the season finally started up again, defense in general became a huge sort of maze, while offense, as high-powered as it was, had become quite easily identifiable.

Other defensive stars who garnered some degree of recognition by PFW selectors in this particularly offensive season (and you can read into that any way you want to) were Miami NT Bob Baumhower, Los Angeles Raider LB Ted Hendricks, Tampa Bay LB Hugh Green, Dallas DE Harvey Martin and CB Everson Walls, and the Jets’ Gastineau.

What better way to saw such a logjam than with a Razorback? Especially one who likes Merle.

Dan Hampton is one of six Pro Football Hall of Famers who’ll be in attendance as we unveil the entire Team For the Ages at “Football Legends LIVE!” Sept. 8 in Crystal Lake, Ill. Tickets are on sale now: https://shawmediaevents.com/e/pfw50

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