Two Mountaineers selected in 2023 NFL Draft


Courtesy of Andy McLean, App State Athletics

Former outside linebacker Nick Hampton lines up across from the North Carolina defensive line Sept. 3, 2023. The Los Angeles Rams selected Hampton with the No. 161 pick in the NFL Draft Saturday.

Chance Chamberlain, Associate Sports Editor

The NFL gained two Mountaineers as outside linebacker Nick Hampton and offensive lineman Cooper Hodges were selected in the NFL Draft Saturday. This marks the fourth straight year at least one Mountaineer was selected in the NFL Draft. 

“It’s very special that I can be a part of that tradition that App has somebody drafted each year,” Hampton said.

In the fifth round, the Los Angeles Rams used their No. 161 pick on Hampton. The former Mountaineer will move from his small hometown of Anderson, South Carolina, with a population of 29,000, to Los Angeles, with a population exceeding 3.8 million. 

“I’ve never been to L.A., but I’m pretty sure it’ll be a fun experience,” Hampton said. “I still have to stay locked in and focus on the main goal out there.”

The Rams were in need of a third-down rusher, as Los Angeles moved on from linebacker Leonard Floyd in the offseason. Hampton’s explosiveness off the edge fits that need, as Hampton totaled seven sacks in nine games in 2022. 

“I gotta go in there and put in the work,” Hampton said. “Ain’t nothing given.” 

The All-Sun Belt first team selection in 2022 will be coached by 2022 Super Bowl champion head coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. Along with an experienced coaching staff, Hampton will have the chance to line up alongside and learn from nine-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald. 

“Go in there and soak up as much knowledge as I can,” Hampton said. “Be there every day. Just try to learn as much as I can from the vets.”

The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Hodges with their No. 226 pick in the seventh round. Hodges is returning to his home state of Florida as he played football at Baker County High School. 

Jacksonville hosted Hodges for a top-30 visit along with a Jaguars local pro day as he worked out in front of his dream NFL team. 

“I’m an I-10 man,” Hodges said. “This is my dream team. I’ve been watching them for a long time, and they’re the reason I got into football.”

Hodges played right tackle for App State, but has transitioned to guard in the pre-draft process. He’s expected to compete for a backup guard spot that was thin for Jacksonville before the draft.

Both players will get their first on-field opportunities in rookie minicamp in mid-May, before training camp begins late July.