When Hampton Fay was in seventh grade, he had a class project that revolved around colleges and careers.
It would have made sense if the kid from Fort Worth would have decided to focus on Texas or Baylor. Perhaps he might have chosen Texas Tech or even Houston.
Instead, the young, aspiring quarterback picked Michigan State.
“It was just kind of one of those weird coincidences,” Fay said. “Like, I never really knew about them but they just stood out to me because I’d always seen them on 'SportsCenter' and stuff like that. So I just decided to do a project on them.
“But I had always known that Michigan State had always been a powerhouse for football, and that was something that I really liked.”
Four years later, Fay found himself in East Lansing, checking out Michigan State’s campus. It didn’t take long for Fay to realize the school that was once the focus of his school project would be where he’d realize his dream of playing college football.
Not long after his visit in March — one that came just before the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to in-person recruiting and trips to college campuses — Fay, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback from Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints Episcopal, committed to Michigan State. He took advantage of a relationship he had forged with coach Mel Tucker and offensive coordinator Jay Johnson that began when the duo was together at Colorado last year.
“I was able to really get to form relationships with the coaches while they were at Colorado and everything, so just knowing them made it really cool,” Fay said. “But the Michigan State part, separate from (the coaches) that really struck at me was it’s such a big football atmosphere and that's something that I can relate here back at home. When I went out for a visit back in March, I was able to actually get a really good feel of that, and that just related a lot back at home with that big football environment.
“And just being able to watch the guys practice, how they acted with each other and stuff like that, that stood out to me and what their culture was all about. It’s something I really liked.”
The admiration was mutual. Tucker and Johnson first noticed Fay before he was even taking snaps in a high school game.
During his first two high school seasons at Aledo High, Fay was the backup quarterback and played wide receiver. Aledo went unbeaten and won the Texas 5A Division 2 state championship his sophomore year with Fay catching 21 passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns.
But he had always wanted to be a quarterback, just like his dad, who was a quarterback at the Naval Academy, and his grandfather, who played the position at TCU. That desire prompted the transfer to All Saints Episcopal where Fay stepped in as the starting quarterback last fall.
Through three games, he was putting up the numbers everyone expected. He completed 64 of 91 passes for 845 yards and 10 touchdowns with only one interception while leading his team to a perfect 3-0 start against a difficult schedule.
However, in that third game, Fay tore the labrum in his right throwing shoulder while diving for the end zone on a running play. Instead of rehabbing and getting back for the final couple of weeks of the season, Fay opted for surgery, ending the year after three games.
“It was kind of something I had to think about and then I made that decision just to get it over with,” Fay said. “I thought it was best just to stay away from reinjuring it and everything. I just wanted to get it strong, especially going into college now it needs to be strong.”
With only three games played at quarterback, the expected recruiting surge came slowly. Fay had an offer from Illinois at the time, but his three-star rating didn’t budge because of the fact he missed most of the season.
Tucker and Johnson never wavered, though. They offered him a scholarship at Colorado and then once again when they moved on to Michigan State.
“With Coach Tucker and Coach Johnson, for them to reach out to me was something really special,” Fay said. “I'm just so thankful to have this opportunity.”
Fay had multiple offers by the time he chose the Spartans, including from the likes of Boise State, Pittsburgh, Indiana, Colorado and Houston. And if he jumps back in next fall and picks up here he left off, he’s surely to improve on his ranking as the 35th pro-style quarterback in the country, according to 247Sports.
“This young man, his upside and his potential just with his length and his athleticism puts him in a different category,” Episcopal head coach Aaron Beck told 247Sports. “If we were in school right now and in track season he'd run on our 4x100 relay team. He's a little over 6-5, extremely athletic, and his pedigree, his father was a quarterback at Naval Academy and a team captain. He's grown up with that mentality and quarterback mindset.”
That potential improvement could also open the eyes over some other programs around the country. But Fay says he’s not wavering and remains fully committed to Michigan State.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “And I think the visit helped out a lot, just being able to actually see the campus and to drive around and stuff. Looking back on it, if I didn't take that trip and had to make a decision without visiting the place, I think that would be difficult.”
But that decision is behind him now and Fay is focusing on his final season in high school with plans to graduate early and enroll at Michigan State next January.
In the meantime, he’s reaching out to fellow commits — he and tight end Kameron Allen of Forney, Texas, have already had a few workouts together — while the entire group is working on convincing other recruits to join the class.
Fay is also taking tips from dad on how to play in the cold weather, something he insists is no big deal.
“Just put a couple T-shirts on and get the blood going,” Fay said.
He also hopes to get to a game this fall, but with so much uncertainty, it’s still not clear whether he’ll be able to come to Spartan Stadium. Even so, Fay is happy he’ll be wearing green and white.
“I just love it,” he said. “I just love the big football atmosphere.”