He discussed Boise State and New Mexico’s recent battles with ex-Lobos linebacker and Chicago Bears great Brian Urlacher.
Peyton Manning met him, too, even if he wasn’t one of what felt like 1,000 people asking for a photo. Same goes for Steve Spurrier, Marshall Faulk and Matt Leinart.
For Boise State senior center Mason Hampton, spending a few days last week at the National Football Foundation Dinner in New York was something he never could have imagined.
Out of Meridian High, he did not have a single scholarship offer, but there he was Tuesday night, one of 13 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, which honors the nation’s best scholar football player. The honor came with an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship for each finalist.
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“I definitely never thought I’d meet those caliber of players, be in the room with college football royalty,” Hampton said. “I guess being a student-athlete will pay off eventually if you put in the work.”
Hampton did not win the trophy — Virginia linebacker Micah Kiser did — but he is certainly reaping benefits of his work. He has a 3.97 GPA as an accounting major and was named first-team All-Mountain West on Nov. 29.
Following his whirlwind trip, which included meeting the newest College Football Hall of Fame class, Hampton arrived Wednesday in Boise and immediately ran and lifted with the team. Initially, he was going to miss an early afternoon media session Thursday but, of course, he finished his final exam early.
“It’s his maturity, his ability to balance football and school, his consistency every single day,” junior quarterback Brett Rypien said. “When I get here in the morning to watch film, he’s there getting his school work done.”
At the NFF Dinner, Hampton sat with the other finalists and was asked what not only being a leader in the classroom, but on the field, has meant.
“You don’t get a lot of credit, but you’re doing a lot of things for the team,” Hampton said. “I think that builds the ultimate leadership quality that you need to be selfless, you need to be a servant for who you’re leading.”
Backup center Donte Harrington tweeted: “I’ve learned a lot from this guy right here. This dude gets it, and he’s been doing things right since day 1.”
Even if Hampton understands the attention won’t always come his way, he’s earned it.
He has learned to get out of his comfort zone and be a vocal presence. As the offensive line struggled early on, he was the anchor, helping it stick together knowing that improvement would come.
“With Mason, I think about toughness, running the show,” sophomore guard John Molchon said.
When he leaves the Broncos’ football facility, usually when the weather is warmer, Hampton does look pretty tough. His 6-foot-3, 295-pound frame hops onto his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and rides off, hard to miss.
Molchon says the bike “is pretty cool,” and Hampton sent former offensive line coach/fellow bike enthusiast Scott Huff a photo, which prompted Huff to make a reference to the TV show “Sons of Anarchy.”
“It’s a lot of fun to ride, you’ve just got to be safe on it,” Hampton said. “I never really had any coaches tell us we couldn’t ride them or anything.”
OK, so maybe motorcycles aren’t always the safest thing, but Hampton, as usual, is smart about it. He enjoyed all the safety classes.
Hampton was the Broncos’ highest-rated offensive lineman in the regular season. It’s hard to think of a better way to lead than by being an ace student and a standout at a spot key in calling out defenses, changing protection and keeping the offense moving.
Selflessness and leadership, those are what Hampton has in spades. He says he isn’t alone in that on this Boise State team.
“When you have those two things together, you’re going to have a good outcome like we did in the championship game. I had a good outcome finishing my senior year, so it all turned out well,” Hampton said.
Las Vegas Bowl
Who: Boise State (10-3) vs. Oregon (7-5)
When: 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday, Dec. 16
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas
TV: ABC (Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Molly McGrath)
Tickets: $81.75 apiece at BroncoSports.com/tickets, the Athletic Ticket Office or via phone at 208-426-4737.