COLUMBIA - Victor Hampton's long wait is over.
After a miserably long pause, the former South Carolina cornerback will get a chance to begin his NFL career. Hampton signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals, agent Angelo Wright tweeted Tuesday. Contract details were not disclosed.
Hampton reportedly worked out with the Bengals on Tuesday and had a workout scheduled with the New York Giants on Wednesday. In New York, he could have reunited with former teammate and Gamecocks defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who signed an udrafted free agent contract with the Giants last month.
Instead, he'll try to make the 52-man roster for the same franchise that resurrected troubled cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones' career. It's an opportunity Hampton has waited for since being passed over during and after last month's NFL Draft.
Hampton, a second team All-SEC cornerback, was sure he would be selected in the NFL Draft after recording 51 tackles, five tackles for loss and three interceptions last fall. The NFL Draft advisory board told him he was likely to be a second- or third-round pick. So immediately following South Carolina's win against Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, Hampton made his intentions clear. He would enter the draft, leaving school with one year of eligibility remaining.
Things have never been that easy for Hampton. His character was questioned following an incident at a New York City nightclub in April. Though Hampton - who had multiple off-field issues at South Carolina - was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident, he was arrested that week for an altercation with his sister.
The red flags were too much for NFL teams initially. A couple days before the draft, Hampton saw the writing on the wall.
"I don't think I can even describe how much (desire) I have in me right now," Hampton said the weekend before the NFL Draft. "I feel very underrated, disrespected. So, I'm definitely going in with a chip on my shoulder. I'm just excited about the process.
"I'm just ready for it to be over with. Get back to work, show people why I'm the best corner in the draft."
To go undrafted is one thing. Once a player drops to the sixth or seventh round, some consider going undrafted the preferable scenario. An undrafted free agent gets some small control of his destiny, choosing which team to sign a contract.
It took more than a month for Hampton to get that chance. Now that the door to the league has been opened, Hampton will be offered an opportunity to prove himself.
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