- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2011

It would take a seemingly infinite number of details to paint a complete picture of Maurice Hampton’s career at Maryland.

There were the art studio major’s injuries and a start on offense and a position switch. There would be more injuries and plenty of doubt working against him and some potential APR points serving as a valuable asset.

Another major development comes Saturday, when the fifth-year senior makes his first start at defensive tackle as the reeling Terrapins (1-2) play host to Towson (3-0) at Byrd Stadium.

But it’s not his first start. Hampton once was a promising offensive lineman and earned a nod at left guard on a dreary afternoon in 2009. He’ll become only the fourth Maryland player in the past 15 years to start on offense and defense, and the first since Jack Griffin topped the depth chart at defensive tackle and guard between 2004 and 2008.

“I’ve been there. It’s that feeling you get — you’re not a stranger,” Hampton said. “Somebody asked me earlier ‘Are you scared this week?’ I don’t really think of it too much because I’ve already been there. It’s just a matter of getting there again.”

The short answer for how Hampton wound up becoming the Terps’ third starter at nose tackle in three weeks (after A.J. Francis and the injured Andre Monroe) is production. Inserted into last week’s 38-7 humbling loss to Temple, Hampton made five tackles (two for loss) in about 30 plays.

Naturally, there’s a longer story.

There was plenty of attrition in the months after new coach Randy Edsall’s hire. Six would-be fifth-year seniors departed the program. Hampton, who played in 13 games in four years with the Terps and owned five career tackles, received a reprieve from Edsall under one condition.

He would graduate in December, just as he was on track to do at season’s end. Doing so would help Maryland improve its Academic Progress Rate score, which fell enough to cost the program three scholarships this season.

“That was his thing - ‘I need you to graduate’ - just like this,” Hampton said as he pointed a finger. “Just like that, stern-faced and all. ‘I need you to graduate and get your APR points. You’re a good guy, pretty successful, looks like you had a little bad time here, but you can do this.’ “

Much of the trouble stemmed from injuries. Hampton broke an ankle and injured a meniscus in high school. The metal plates in his ankle required surgery once he was in college. Back in the doctors went. The knee problems resurfaced, too.

Later, when he was playing center, he tore the AC joint in a shoulder. Through it all, the right side of his body was a magnet for surgeries.

“Injuries, they really mess with your mind,” Hampton said. “They make you ask yourself ‘Why are you here? Do I really belong here?’ “

By his redshirt sophomore year, Hampton asked to move to defense. Maryland’s personnel limitations on the offensive line didn’t permit it initially. In the spring of 2010, the switch was made, and then-coach Ralph Friedgen said speed and strength could serve Hampton well on the defensive line.

Then came the coaching change after last season. For some of Hampton’s teammates, it meant the end of their time with the Terps. For him, it was a welcome new beginning.

It meant a chance to complete his degree. It meant a fresh start with a new coaching staff. It meant no one knowing or caring about his injury history. And it meant a shot to start again.

“My problem had developed that I couldn’t focus because I wanted to do so well because I had been there,” Hampton said. “I couldn’t focus anymore on what I was supposed to be doing and how to get there again and how to do this move over again or how to talk calmly without stuttering over myself and express to everyone else that I can still do this. I’m not out of the game yet.”

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