USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Students often say four years fly by in college, but four years on the gridiron can seem like a lifetime.
Just ask USF defensive end Patrick Hampton.
The fifth-year senior has had to sit and wait his turn while stars like Jarriett Buie, George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul did their thing under the spotlight.
"It's been stressful at times. It's been humbling at times," said Hampton, a former high school regional defensive player of the year in Georgia.
Instead of huffing and puffing in frustration, Hampton has kept his eyes open and his mind set on carrying on the lineage of great USF ends.
"I'm just trying to take what I've learned and just show it all," he said. "Just go as hard as I can to show what I have."
Learning from some of the best in college football meant keeping a mental notebook each season.
Hampton noticed how Buie used his strength to beat double teams. He saw how Selvie used his speed to blow past offensive linemen and noticed Pierre-Paul's "crazy moves" on his path to the quarterback.
"I learned a lot from them and I kind of took it upon myself to just do my own thing with it," Hampton said.
His coaches have noticed.
"He's got a great ability to bend, change directions and move. He's good with his hands and he's very explosive. I always saw that in him," said USF defensive tackles coach Kevin Patrick, who noted watching recent film of Hampton has put a smile on his face.
Patrick has been a confidence builder for Hampton all the way back to the days when he was a "skinny little guy."
"I know his dad always used to say he's a linebacker," Patrick said. "I said, 'No, I think he's more of a defensive end.' He fits that mold of a tweener but that ability to move, change directions and do some of the things that he does, sometimes those bigger guys can't do those things."
Hampton has come a long way with Patrick standing firmly in his corner.
He redshirted in 2007, played in six games as a backup in '08, assumed the same role in '09 and played primarily on special teams while logging 13 games of experience.
Hampton started to leave his mark last season when he played in 11 games (three starts) and totaled 2.5 sacks.
Head coach Skip Holtz said he saw "the light bulb go off" for Hampton last year when the Bulls were thinned by injuries.
"He had a chance to get in and get on the field," Holtz said. "I thought he did a great job last year and he's really taken that and kind of parlayed that into this year."
Hampton is now far from skinny by normal people's standards at 6-foot-2 and more than 240 pounds. He's also determined to charge out of the shadow of his predecessors.
"This year I think it's going to be like a big coming out for me. I want it to be like that," Hampton said. "That's what I'm hoping to do. I have a little talent myself, so I'm trying to show it a little bit."
Patrick agrees Hampton's attempt to become his own man at defensive end has fueled his fire for the game.
"I think in turn it's increased his work ethic," the coach said. "It's made him even more determined. He's challenged himself as he's been challenged by other players."
The stress and years of working toward a future day to shine is about to pay off with Notre Dame right around the corner. Now a starter, Hampton still knows he has a lot to prove but Patrick already sees how much promise his pupil possesses.
"I told him, 'Your time is going to come,' " Patrick said. "Sure enough he's one of the most valuable guys we have on this defense. We expect a lot of great things out of him."