On the first day of his internship, Indiana junior cornerback Bruce Hampton stood in the middle of the trading floor, absorbing a scene that was a total sensory overload.
Everywhere Hampton turned, he saw stock tickers and TVs turned to Bloomberg News or CNBC. A soundtrack of screaming suits filled the room. Desks were packed in next to one another, each accompanied by four computer screens and a phone with several lines. When announcements came across a loudspeaker, the room fell silent, only to spin into action again.
At first, the view inside the JPMorgan office in midtown Manhattan overwhelmed Hampton, but there were familiar elements. He was accustomed to high-pressure platforms. He knew how to read and react. Most important, he had experienced constant competition.
"You go to practice every day in football; everyone's fighting for a job," Hampton said. "No one wants to sit there and not play. It's the same here. People are trying to impress the managers, they're staying late, coming in early, doing little things to try to make themselves known.
"As an athlete, that's where it plays into my hand."
If Hampton plays his cards right, he'll have two jobs locked up by the end of the summer: a starting spot in Indiana's defensive backfield and a full-time position as an investment banker with JPMorgan.
He's among the 400 college students participating in JPMorgan's summer internship program. Interns are assigned to different areas of the firm for 10 weeks, at the end of which they find out whether they'll receive full-time offers.
"It's like a 10-week job interview," said Hampton, a finance major at Indiana who carries a 3.79 grade point average. "If you're not here, you don't have a shot."
Despite the demanding program, Hampton is making sure he also has a shot at landing one of the starting cornerback jobs vacated by Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors. The cornerback position will be spotlighted in preseason camp as six players vie for two openings.
Four or five days a week after work, Hampton heads to Velocity Sports Performance, a training-center chain where many Division I-A players work out between seasons or before the NFL combine. Hampton, who pays for his training at Velocity, goes through a program of running, agility drills, speed work and weightlifting. He hopes to reach his peak by the time Indiana opens practice on Aug. 4.
The internship and athletic training provides Hampton with a daily schedule most 21-year-olds wouldn't wish on their worst enemies, especially during the summer.
He wakes up at 5:45 a.m. and hops on the No. 6 subway uptown to Grand Central Terminal to get to the office by 6:30. Hampton meets with the sales and trading group at 7:30 and prepares for the market to open at 9:30. His group handles bonds and fixed-income funds, monitoring interest-rate swaps and credit default swaps.
"From that point on, all systems are go," Hampton said. "I'm on the trading floor, and it's pretty crazy. The next person is like right on top of you. It's loud; people are yelling, people are on the phone.
"People are trying to react as fast as they can because if they don't, they're not going to make any money."
At 6:30 p.m., Hampton makes the short trip to Velocity and spends two hours working with trainer Kelly Shaver before he returns to the New York University dormitory, where he's living during the internship.
"I only talk to him after 10 [p.m.], for about five minutes, and he's on his way to bed," said Hampton's father, Bruce. "It's very intense."
The idea of being off campus during a critical football summer initially made Hampton apprehensive about taking the internship. Before he broached the idea to coach Bill Lynch, he wanted to have a detailed plan for his training.
After researching both JPMorgan and Velocity, Hampton made his pitch.
"It's like giving a presentation," said Hampton, who appeared in two games last season. "I like to compare a lot of things to football, so I said, '[The internship] is like getting a scholarship to play for USC. They can pick from the U.S. Army All-Americans, the best players from all across the country. That's the same thing with Wall Street.' He understood that.
"Also, we're on the same page in terms of where I need to be in August. I can't just show up. Obviously, Indiana's invested in me, so I have an obligation to be ready to play."
Lynch, who previously has had players take summer internships, green-lighted Hampton. The junior also got support from his teammates, who know "I'm not just jackin' around up here."
"This kind of an opportunity is one he certainly needed to take," Lynch said. "He's very self-motivated. I know he'll be doing the things to get himself ready for the season. He's got great time-management skills."
Hampton became interested in the markets at an early age despite having little exposure to the business world. His father is a lawyer in Cleveland, and no close family members work in finance.
But after excelling in math and science throughout elementary and high school, Hampton envisioned working on Wall Street.
"I've always been intrigued by what drives it," he said. "If you don't really know, you turn to the finance section of the newspaper, and it's like [reading] Japanese. Or you turn to CNBC and you're like, 'What are all these numbers going across?'
"To know what all that means now, that's pretty cool."
Hampton chose Indiana to pursue both football and finance, enrolling in the Kelley School of Business. He recently completed Kelley's semester-long integrative core program -- consisting of courses in finance, marketing, operations and strategy -- and ranked as the No. 1 finance student in a pool of 230.
Despite his academic accolades, Hampton recognized his path to Wall Street hinged on landing a top internship. He received an e-mail from assistant athletic director Mattie White about the AlumniAthlete Network Wall Street internship program, which places college athletes (sophomore and juniors) with banking firms such as UBS, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and JPMorgan.
You go to practice every day in football; everyone's fighting for a job. No one wants to sit there and not play. It's the same here [at Wall Street]. People are trying to impress the managers, they're staying late, coming in early, doing little things to try to make themselves known.
-- Bruce Hampton
White, who served as Hampton's academic adviser her first two years at IU, immediately thought of Hampton when she heard about the program.
"Bruce being Bruce, with everything I send him, he'll at least inquire about it or apply for it," White said. "He knows he wants to be successful, and he puts himself in great positions to accomplish that."
Hampton interviewed with the AlumniAthlete Network in Chicago and again with JPMorgan when the firm came to campus. Though there was no direct Hoosiers sports connection at JPMorgan, Hampton's sports background helped his cause.
Several former college players work at the firm.
"They love athletes," he said. "You've got to perform, but they know you have the intangibles they're looking for. You've demonstrated it already."
Hampton hopes those intangibles will solidify his future at the end of the summer. In most years, 80 percent of JPMorgan's interns receive offers, but Hampton expects the number to dip to 60 percent this summer because of the sagging economy.
An offer for 2009 could present a quandary for Hampton. He's on pace to graduate in May but has two seasons of eligibility left on the gridiron.
Hampton wants to finish out his football career and is hopeful JPMorgan can defer his start date to 2010. Either way, it would be a nice problem to have when training camp begins in August.
"It would definitely be a weight off my shoulders," he said.
Adam Rittenberg covers college football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org