Hampton went undrafted, but signed with the 49ers as a rookie free agent. He was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list on Aug. 27 and was later promoted to the active roster on Nov. 27.
Hampton, however, didn’t play for the 49ers in 2012. The only time he dressed out on gameday was when Jim Harbaugh allowed the inactive players to warmup with the team at Super Bowl XLVII.
Now, Hampton is back to full-strength this offseason and has been using his time at San Francisco’s “Football School” workouts to continue his understanding of the offensive playbook.
“The first year was frustrating, but it was a big learning experience for me,” Hampton said. “Traveling with the team, coming back midseason and getting my work in on the scout team really helped me out a lot.”
Hampton took on the role of the opposition’s lead running back to help prepare the 49ers defense in the second half of the season.
He feels even better heading into his first full offseason in the NFL.
“My body feels good,” Hampton said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
Hampton’s biggest focus has been learning the nuances of the 49ers playbook from running backs coach Tom Rathman.
Hampton feels mentally and physically ready for the Organized Team Activities set to take place over the next two weeks at team headquarters in Santa Clara. Hampton has benefited greatly from spending a football season in the classroom with Rathman and the team’s talented stable of running backs led by Frank Gore.
“Seeing how guys ran plays really prepared me for this upcoming offseason,” Hampton said. “Just being a part of the team helped me stay ahead of the game.”
Hampton picked up 25 rushing touchdowns at Iowa and Southern Illinois. He rushed 348 times for 1,698 yards, too.
Experience is one thing in college, but Hampton hasn’t carried the ball against a defense in a live game since the 2012 college football season.
The young running back's scout team success bodes well for his future. Hampton also learned a great deal of information from watching Gore.
“The biggest thing I picked up was being patient,” Hampton said of San Francisco’s all-time leading rusher. “He’s a very patient runner and he always attacks. He always picks precision points of where he’ll attack a player.
“He doesn’t take a lot of big hits on the outside. He preserves his body.”
Hampton and the rest of the 49ers running backs are continuing to build their strength and stamina through offseason workouts. The learning side of the game is where Hampton’s focus is at this stage of the offseason.
San Francisco’s running backs haven’t focused on new rule changes that will penalize rushers who lead with the crown of their helmet. Emphasizing those open-field rushing techniques will come closer to training camp.
“We haven’t really got into the rule changes, I think that’ll come later in the offseason,” Hampton said. “Right now, we’re just focusing on the playbook and getting sharper as running backs.”
Hampton aims to prove he’s just as sharp as he was in college.