As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.
We continue the countdown with an integral part of the defense of the 1985 Bears, as Dan Hampton nails down the #23 spot on the list.
Hampton, drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft, was a stellar defensive end out of Arkansas that helped anchor one of the most ferocious pass rushes in league history. Along with Richard Dent and Steve McMichael, Hampton wrought havoc on just about every offense that he played against, racking up 57 sacks and forcing 10 fumbles in his distinguished career. He started 151 games for the Bears, and was named to the Pro Bowl four times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
The embodiment of the no-holds barred attitude that defined the Bears of the 1980’s, Hampton sought out opposing quarterbacks with a fervor that could only be described as “zealous.” He truly hit his stride in the middle part of the decade, racking up double digit sack totals in both the 1984 and 1986 seasons. He also forced eight fumbles in that three year span, and he was named as a First-Team All-Pro after the 1984 campaign.
Following his career with the Bears, Hampton has remained active both on the speaking circuit and in the media. He also appears during football season on NBC 5’s Sports Sunday show, breaking down the latest news surrounding the Monsters of the Midway.
Hampton has also been known to ruffle some feathers in the years following his playing career. In 2011 when President Barack Obama invited the 1985 Bears to the White House for the celebration that they never got to enjoy (the Challenger disaster in 1986 thwarted those plans), Hampton refused to go because of his disagreements with the president’s policies. Many of his teammates didn’t agree with the choice he made, but the point remained clear that the “Danimal” prefers to forge his own path rather than treading upon the path that others have cleared.
As a Hall of Famer, Hampton does have a persuasive argument to be included higher on this list, but there are a couple of reasons why he settled into the position he occupies. The first and most obvious was that he was a very high draft pick, and therefore is bumped down for the purposes of this countdown. The other reason is that his longevity with the team was hampered a bit by injuries, as he missed significant chunks of the 1982 and 1987 seasons with the Bears.
All of that being said however, Hampton was one of the key catalysts for arguably the greatest defense the league has ever seen, so in spite of those flaws in his resume he is deserving of a spot at or near where he was slotted.