If you’re a true Georgia fan and you really love the Dogs and you were unable to get a ticket for the North Carolina game in the Georgia Dome but you’d still like to come to downtown Atlanta and soak up the atmosphere, then you’ll come to STATS on Saturday and watch the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game with Rodney Hampton and his new knee.
You’ll get to hang out with Keith Henderson as an added bonus.
The two former star running backs for the University of Georgia are hosting a viewing party Saturday afternoon at the popular downtown Atlanta bar on Marietta Street from 5 p.m. until the party dies down sometime after the game. It’s part of a promotion put together by CO&P Integrated Marketing.
Hampton currently lives in Houston where he has been since he retired as the New York Giants all-time leading rusher and as Super Bowl XXV Champion. Henderson, who spent the majority of his five-year NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers, is a businessman who is now living back in his hometown of Cartersville.
Hampton built a successful bail-bonding business along with his father in his hometown of Houston. A Better Bail Bond is one of the largest bail-bonding companies in Texas. The downside is he hasn’t had many opportunities to get back to Georgia to revel with the Bulldogs.
Hampton laughs at the irony of being a couple of blocks away from the Dome on Saturday and watching the game on TV.
“I haven’t been able to go many Georgia games,” Hampton said. “But I always end up watching it on TV at home or with my friends. I see a lot of the Dogs. I always have to see what happens. So this should be a great time. I’m looking forward to seeing the Dogs’ fans.”
Hampton will be flying into Atlanta from Houston on Saturday morning and is looking forward to hunkering down with Georgia fans. And he’s especially happy to be doing so pain-free on a relatively new knee.
“I finally had to get my right knee replaced a few years ago,” Hampton said. “It gave me problems from high school all the way through the NFL. But it never broke down until my career was over with. I just had to keep on patching it up. But knock on wood, I never had an ACL or anything like that.”
Longtime Dogs fans will recall UGA trainers popping Hampton’s knee back into place throughout the night during a particular hard-fought game against Tennessee in Knoxville in 1989. Hampton had a huge night, but the Bulldogs ultimately fell 17-14.
Hampton, despite sharing time with Henderson, Tim Worley and Lars Tate, remains sixth on the Bulldogs’ all-time rushing list with 2,668 yards from 1987-89. He went on to become a first-round pick of the New York Giants in 1990 and won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 1991. He retired as the Giants’ all-time leading rusher in 1997 with 6,897 yards, a record that stood until Tiki Barber broke it in 2004.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s Nick Chubb needs only 374 yards this season to move past Hampton on Georgia’s career list. And that’s just fine with Hampton.
“I’m glad to see that Chubb is going to bounce back,” Hampton said. “He’s a hard worker. Him coming back doesn’t surprise me a bit. I talk to his uncle, Aaron Chubb, who played with me at Georgia, and he tells me that he’s a great young man as well as a football player. I know he’s going to do well like all the Georgia running backs.”
Being a Georgia tailback is indeed prestigious fraternity and something Hampton takes a great deal of pride in. Herschel Walker is generally considered the greatest among the Bulldogs’ best ball carriers, but Hampton was one of the first to take notice of Todd Gurley, whom he met as a Georgia freshman.
“I told some people then I thought he was going to be the best running back to ever come through Georgia,” Hampton said. “I caught a lot of flak about that. Now people are starting to come back to me and say, ‘you called it.’ But I saw something special in Gurley right away. He’s big, fast, strong, quick and has the vision.”
He said pretty much any back that Georgia signs is going to be special. The program’s dedication to running the football is something that has spanned decades and was why he came to Athens from Texas back in 1987.
“We had a good time,” he said. “We ran the ball. We had a lot of great running backs and we enjoyed doing it. Now they mix it up more; they run and pass the ball. It’s always better to have a balanced attack. But we sure did enjoy running it like we did.”
Hampton keeps the lessons he learned under Vince Dooley with him and shares them often.
“I take pride in our family business and doing things in the community,” said Hampton, who runs an after-school program and “Hamp’s Camp” youth football camp. “I tell kids if they work hard and stay disciplined, they can do anything they want in life. Just like me.”