Hampton true freshman quarterback Travis Champion had a pretty good two quarters of work on Saturday.
With the Pirates up 7-3 going into the third quarter after fellow freshman Brad Hudson had gone 6-of-13 for 59 yards and a touchdown in the first half, Champion got the ball to open the third quarter against Morgan State. The product of Rancho Verde (Calif.) High, where he threw for 2,400 yards and 28 TDs as a senior, promptly led a six-play, 63-yard scoring drive, capped by his 25-yard pass to Isiah Thomas.
"That's not bad for a freshman," HU coach Donovan Rose said.
In a rare turn of events, Champion actually had a personal cheering section in the Armstrong Stadium stands. His grandparents drove up from Hickory, N.C., to cheer him on.
"That's the closest family I have," Champion said. "Luckily they were here, but most games, I haven't had any family."
So, is it difficult, being a whole coast removed from everything familiar?
"Yes and no," Champion said. "My family's very supportive. They're all about getting education. The main part is I'm at school for free, and I'm doing something that I love with football."
And how, exactly, did Champion get all the way across the country to HU?
"I was looking at going to junior college because I didn't have any scholarships out of high school, and then I just got a phone call one day from one of my coaches that was helping me with recruiting," Champion said. "He said, 'Hey, I got you a scholarship to Hampton University.' I'd never heard of it. I just said, 'Hey, I'm gonna take it and see where I go with it.'
"I just flew out here, and I was here for summer school. I've enjoyed it, and they've showed me love. It's been a great experience for me."
When Pirates senior QB David Legree went down with a season-ending shoulder injury on Oct. 22, Champion finished that overtime win against N.C. Central, completing the first five passes he threw, and then started the next week at Savannah State, going 21-of-30 for 197 yards and a TD.
Champion started Nov. 5 against Howard but struggled to an 11-for-17, 58-yard, one-interception first half and was yanked for Hudson, who went 7-for-15 for 48 yards and a pick in Hampton's 10-7 loss.
Hudson got the starting nod last week against Delaware State, going 12-of-23 for 162 yards and two TDs (and two picks). He also rushed for 56 yards, displaying the running ability that led to his start on Saturday - for a half, anyway.
"They put me in there, and I just had to come out and perform," Champion said. "I'm more of a pocket guy. The other guy is more of a runner, but our offense is based on staying in the pocket and getting rid of the ball."
With Hampton's 7-4 season in the books, Champion is now focused on the future.
"Now it's offseason," he said. "Get prepared and solidify my starting spot."
Rose said the Pirates will actively recruit a dual-threat QB to compete for the starting job in 2012. But if Saturday was an audition for Champion, he at least earned himself a call-back.