By Walter Villa
When Dakota Hampton and her father, Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Hampton, get together they don’t usually play sports. They make music.
“I play piano, and my dad plays the saxophone, guitar and the drums,” said Dakota. “We play ‘70s and ‘80s songs (from bands) like The Who, Aerosmith and Three Dog Night.”
When she’s not playing “Pinball Wizard,” Hampton is usually playing volleyball for her high school, Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.), or her club team, Sports Performance 17-Mizuno.
A 6-foot junior, Hampton made first-team All-Conference for Sandburg last season after recording 364 kills and 250 digs. Sandburg finished the season 32-7, losing in the sectionals to eventual state finalist Marist, a team it had defeated during the regular season.
Hampton is the type of all-around athlete -- she also plays golf and tennis for Sandberg –- plenty of colleges are seeking. But her father said she is still “apprehensive” about the recruiting process.
“I tell her to work hard, but I also tell her to have patience,” he said. “My physical maturation didn’t come until age 19, 20, 21.
“She’s a terrific player right now. She has a great build for an athlete, and she has been the glue on every team she’s ever been on. But she’s going to be even better in two or three years.”
Hampton, who lives with her mother, Julie Craig, said this club season will be key for her career as she strives to earn scholarship offers. Her dream school is Arizona State, which is located near where her grandparents live in Phoenix.
“If I go to school there, my mom would move out that way,” said Hampton, who has a 3.0 grade-point average and is also interested in Central Florida, New Mexico, Florida Atlantic and her father’s alma mater, Arkansas.
Dan Hampton, who won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1986 and played in four Pro Bowls, said his daughter inherited his competitive zeal –- among other things.
Hampton relates what he swears is a true story about his daughter while she was vacationing in Hawaii four years ago. She was alone on a beach, practicing volleyball, when former Bears center Jay Hilgenberg spotted her.
“You look like you could be Dan Hampton’s daughter,” said Hilgenberg, who was shocked to find that she actually was his ex-teammate’s child.
Hampton has never shied away from her father’s legacy. She sports the same No. 99 her dad wore while making a name for himself with the Bears whenever the jersey has been available on one of her teams. (She wears No. 16 for the Eagles because there is no No. 99 uniform available.) “I think there is some pressure being his daughter,” she said. “But it’s a good pressure. It pushes me to be better than the average player.”
Dan Hampton attends most of his daughter's home matches and said he “couldn’t be prouder” of Dakota -- and not just because she’s a good athlete. In fact, he has urged her to have varied interests, including, of course, music.
“She’s so busy right now with school and volleyball,” he said. “But as she gets older, she’ll learn that music is a friend who’s always there.”