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Wednesday, July 31, 2002
DWI doesn't derail Hampton's Hall of Fame quest
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com


Five days before the vote that would crown his football career, Dan Hampton took his eye off the prize.

Late on the night of Jan. 28, Arkansas state police arrested Hampton on U.S. 67 just outside the Cabot city limits and charged him with driving while intoxicated. Hampton, the former Chicago Bears defensive lineman, refused to take a breath test after the state trooper said he failed a field sobriety test.

"I passed the sobriety test," Hampton said, in a conversation recorded by a camera in the trooper's car.

"Sir, I don't believe you passed you completed it," the trooper responded.

"That's just semantics," Hampton replied, admitting that he had "a couple of drinks" earlier in the evening.

Clearly, even in his condition, Hampton was concerned that the arrest might hurt his chances when sportswriters would decide five days later whether or not to include him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was his second DWI in five years.

"This is so inopportune," he told the trooper, raising his voice. "This will really kill me. The Hall of Fame thing is Saturday. How do you think this is going to play out? You know this is going to hit the papers."

Indeed, the story did make national headlines, but Hampton was voted into the Hall of Fame nevertheless.

Hampton pleaded guilty in April and was forced to pay a $1,000 fine and attend alcohol education courses. And there is still the matter of his sentence -- a week in jail that has yet to be worked out with the Lonoke County Sheriff.

At home in Chicago in mid-July, Hampton seemed relieved that he was still headed to Canton, Ohio.

"I really hate the way all this went down, but things happen for a reason," Hampton said. "I learned a very, very valuable lesson and I understand the grave responsibility of some of the actions you take. And I paid a price.

"But at the end of the day, it's a blip in my life. I'm forever indebted to the certain attitude of the folks on the [voting] panel, because they're not going to let one little instance mar what somebody's tried to achieve."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.





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