SIU's Jewel Hampton to enter NFL draft

Southern Illinois junior running back Jewel Hampton has decided to enter the NFL draft and forgo his senior season, the school announced on Tuesday.

Hampton rushed for 1,121 yards and 17 touchdowns in one season at Southern Illinois. He spent his first three years, including a redshirt season, at Iowa.

“I felt great about the people and the season we had in Carbondale, and the program is going in the right direction,” Hampton said in a statement. “I put my name in for evaluation and they said I had a good chance of getting drafted between rounds four and seven, so I had to follow my heart. It's hard to leave a place like Carbondale, where I have so many footholds now, but I need to follow my dream."

Hampton was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer of the Year and a second-team all-conference selection.

“We fully support Jewel's decision and wish him the very best in his pro career," Southern Illinois coach Dale Lennon said in a statement. “He clearly has both the talent and the work ethic to succeed at the next level. Jewel is a fine young man and I look forward to watching him on Sundays.”

Former Southern Illinois running backs in the NFL include Brandon Jacobs and Deji Karim.