Hampton might have been just as happy playing the saxophone he reluctantly gave up in 11th grade to embark on a career with the ultimate personal ending--Saturday's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I didn't want to play football," Hampton later told a sweat-soaked crowd of 20,000. "Once I got involved, the game teaches qualities you look for not only in football but in life."
Like counting on other people. The parade hadn't even started when O'Bradovich started to get choked up.
"He's supposed to be here to keep me together," said Hampton, the 25th Bear to be inducted.
Hampton was on a cell phone frantically asking Hall of Fame officials to scramble for four tickets he forgot to leave for friends driving from Chicago. Nearly 48 hours with virtually no sleep because of the Hall-related whirlwind had left Hampton at wits' end as he tried to put finishing touches on his speech.
"There's been no time for lucid thought," Hampton said.
Hampton said fellow inductee Dave Casper told him he had whittled his speech to the seven-minute limit long ago.
"I wanted to be here to walk the streets of Canton and be around guys like Gino Marchetti, the greatest defensive lineman of all time," Hampton said, explaining his procrastination. "They give you seven minutes. It's impossible to name everybody."
Hampton took 16 minutes, much to the chagrin of about 10,000 Buffalo Bills fans who waited three hours on aluminum bleachers for their hero, Jim Kelly.
Kelly's 18-minute speech was the only one longer than Hampton's among the class including Casper, the late coach George Allen and Steelers wide receiver John Stallworth. Not even a politician, U.S Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.), accepting on behalf of his dad, talked as long as Hampton or Kelly.
Hampton dwelled on three coaches--Bears defensive line coach Dale Haupt, coordinator Buddy Ryan and head coach Mike Ditka--for making him realize the importance of sacrifice in assembling "the greatest defense of all time."
"The thing about football I think is great is everybody gets their turn to hit the ball in baseball or shoot the basketball," Hampton said. "In football you have to be willing to sacrifice yourself and personal glory for the good of the team."
Hampton said he sent a model of his bronzed bust back to the Hall because it looked too much like Ditka.
"I looked at him for nine years," Hampton said.
Hampton cited teammates Mike Singletary, Gary Fencik and Al Harris as well as Ryan, Haupt, Bears representative Brian McCaskey and former Bears personnel director Bill Tobin among the crowd. He thanked fiance Gina Jensen, daughter Dakota, brother Matt, sister Linda and told his mother, Joan: "Mama, you're in Canton, baby. My dad's not here, but he's watching."
O'Bradovich, who presented Ditka in 1988, became the first player to present more than one inductee.
"The thing I liked about Dan is watching him pick up a 280-pound tackle with one hand and a 270-pound guard with the other, drive them seven yards into the backfield and dump them on the quarterback," O'Bradovich said without a hint of exaggeration.
"Papa Bear would be really smiling," Hampton said.