University of Kansas

A therapeutic transition around KU football

Paul Hampshire’s first year in Lawrence living with his son, KU linebackers coach Todd Bradford, has been spent helping in the equipment room, watching practice and putting in miles of walking.
Paul Hampshire’s first year in Lawrence living with his son, KU linebackers coach Todd Bradford, has been spent helping in the equipment room, watching practice and putting in miles of walking. The Wichita Eagle

When he received the offer from his son, Paul Hampshire made clear his list of two demands.

No. 1, Todd Bradford had to get a two-bedroom apartment in Lawrence. And secondly, the complex also had to be pet-friendly … Bogey, his Pekingese, was part of the deal.

Bradford, Kansas’ linebackers coach, didn’t think his dad should sit around bored at his home in St. George, Utah. So he invited Hampshire to come live with him during the football season — even while knowing the tiny dog might drive him crazy.

“It may have already been on his mind as quickly as he agreed to it,” Bradford said.

In August, the 79-year-old Hampshire left his Utah home behind, putting Bogey in the car to drive 17 hours to a state where he’d never stopped previously.

He had reasons for seeking a new adventure after going through some tough times the past seven years.

In 2008, his wife, Sandra, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer that forms in blood plasma cells. Hampshire took on the role of full-time caregiver, doing the grocery shopping, laundry and even cooking while using skills he’d picked up from his previous work in the appliance industry.

The medical process was unrelenting. In July 2009, Sandra received a five-chemo cocktail as part of a continuous four-day treatment. Her hair fell out immediately, and she dropped to a frail 87 pounds.

Though she was in remission in 2010, every other week she received additional chemo infusions on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. It was about that time that Bradford — he’d been defensive coordinator at Southern Miss and Maryland in the late part of the decade — decided it was time to come closer to home.

An old friend and neighbor offered him a chance to work remotely with an oil business, and Bradford gave up coaching to move to Utah. When he started the new job, his company hadn’t billed a penny. One year later, Bradford had been part of a business that billed $65 million in one year.

Most importantly, he was able to see his mother and help his father — Hampshire is technically his stepfather, though Bradford only calls him “dad” — while moving to Orem, Utah. Though it was 3 1/2 hours away from St. George, Bradford often was able to take in his parents when they made medical trips to nearby Salt Lake City.

Things worsened in 2015. Sandra developed dementia, and one of the side effects was that she lost her appetite. A feeding tube was placed through her nose into her stomach, and for a while, Paul delivered each of her meals, pouring an Ensure-looking liquid into a syringe every two hours from 8:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night.

“I used to say, ‘She’s the one pulling the wagon. I’m just riding along,’ ” Hampshire said. “I was glad I was able to do it.”

Sandra’s condition deteriorated after a fall in December. Broken ribs turned into pneumonia, which led to dehydration and a staph infection. She also had developed a form of leukemia from her previous chemotherapy.

On a Saturday, after hearing Sandra’s chest rattle with each breath in the hospital, Hampshire received a call from the medical staff telling him that Sandra wasn’t getting enough oxygen. The family made plans to say their final goodbyes the next day.

On Jan. 3, Sandra died at age 79.

“It was time,” Bradford said. “She had fought it for seven years. It was a rough fight.”

Two weeks later, Bradford officially accepted a position on KU’s staff after he was contacted by David Beaty, as the two previously knew each other when Bradford took recruiting trips to Beaty’s high school while he was coaching in Texas.

It was only natural, Bradford says, for his father to join him during the season — especially with wife, Sondra, still working as a nurse in Utah (she flies to each KU game) and his four children out of the house.

“I said, ‘Hey, you’re not doing anything,’ ” Bradford said. “ ‘Why don’t you come out here and hang out?’ 

Hampshire has kept himself busy.

Each morning, he volunteers two hours in KU’s equipment department, putting decals on helmets some days and organizing the team’s nine types of facemasks on others.

After recent back surgery, Hampshire was told he’d never have to see the specialist again if he started walking five miles. The blue Fitbit on his left wrist hasn’t logged fewer than 13,000 steps in any day since.

Coming from the desert in St. George, Hampshire loves the colorful scenery Lawrence provides. An occasional golfer, he appreciates the nice days when he can walk on the nature trails in town.

“I feel like I’m lost in the jungle when I’m a block and a half from my car,” Hampshire said.

His other daily routine centers around football. Hampshire attends each of his son’s practices, often sitting in the bleachers with former KU players Gary Laster and Fernando de San Miguel as they discuss the day’s events. Bradford has even come to call them “The Three Amigos.”

Hampshire says being around KU’s players has revived him. A few will come up to him each day to ask the same question: “How are you doing, Mr. Paul?”

“It’s been helpful mentally to brighten my spirit,” Hampshire said.

There are other social events Hampshire looks forward to. Each Thursday, he’ll go out to eat with his son at a Lawrence restaurant that has been suggested to him. He also enjoys Sunday afternoon lunches with the coaches’ families when the discussion is rarely about football. Bradford likes to joke that Hampshire knows more people in Lawrence than he does.

“It’s sad that he doesn’t have my mom to hang out with anymore. I know that breaks his heart still,” Bradford said. “But it’s great to have him here. I love having the chance to spend time with him.”

This will all change in a few weeks. Because Bradford is rarely in Lawrence when the season is over — coaches log weeks on the road recruiting — Hampshire is planning to drive back to Utah after KU’s season finale against Kansas State.

Hampshire is looking forward to certain things while back at home, like watching the 6 o’clock news — something he says he hasn’t done in months.

Still, when next August rolls around, the man who jokes that he doesn’t even like to buy green bananas has already come up with a plan for his 80th year.

He and Bogey, God willing, will be packing up the car again. In less than a day’s driving time, they can make it to Lawrence.

Jesse Newell: @jessenewell

Kansas at No. 14 West Virginia

  • When: 6 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.
  • Records: KU 1-7, 0-5 Big 12; WVU 6-1, 3-1
  • TV: ESPN2

Three Story Lines

OH NO, 4-0: If KU fails to win Saturday, it will extend its road losing streak to 40 games. This is already the second-longet streak in FBS history, with Western State’s 44 straight road losses from 1926-36 standing as the only thing in the way of the Jayhawks reaching the ultimate mark of futility.

KEEP THE STREAK: KU sophomore Dorance Armstrong has at least one sack in six straight weeks — matching the longest streak at the school since linebacker James Holt went six consecutive games with a sack in 2008. With four games left, Armstrong’s eight sacks are 6 1/2 shy of the KU single-season record set by Ron Warner in 1997.

MOTIVATION?: KU special teams coach Joe DeForest, who spent the previous four seasons with West Virginia as defensive coordinator and later special teams/safeties coach, came to KU after the Mountaineers did not renew his contract in the offseason. KU’s special teams have struggled as of late, as Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook broke free for a 71-yard punt return for touchdown last week.