Hampton Stepping Up A Level

Talented prospect Bruce Hampton is one of the more promising defensive backs in the state. He decided to make the move from Division V Bedford Chanel to Division I Cleveland Heights, and now he's working to prove that he is an Ohio State-caliber prospect. Gary Housteau recently chatted with Bruce to find out more about what's on the horizon.

Things are going very well these days for Bruce Hampton of Cleveland Heights High School and people are starting to notice.

Hampton began the 2004 calendar year with a top performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl combine, he then transferred to Heights on Jan. 20 from St. Peter Chanel and just recently he turned in another solid performance at a high school combine at the Cleveland Browns facility in mid-February.

"Over the last two weeks, everything has just gone way up as far as people calling me and people sending me stuff, all kinds of things. It's just exciting," Hampton said. "I'm at a new school, and I'm just excited about playing football next year, and I think about it every day. I'm just ready for it to start right now. I know it's going to be a little while still, but right now I guess my football time is at the Sports Plant and at these combines and at these camps, that's my football right now until the season comes alive. So I'm just really excited about everything."

A two-year starter at defensive back for the Firebirds, Hampton has toiled in anonymity at Chanel for the most part and now he wants the chance to make a name for himself at a bigger school that's in his home district.

"Up until the 9th grade, I had went to Cleveland Heights public schools so I'm real familiar with the people and most of my friends are from this area, so I felt that it was a better fit for me socially," he said. "But also I want to assert myself as being one of the top players in Ohio and, although Chanel is a great football team, sometimes I think some of the talent gets overlooked from being a smaller school. I felt like the bigger school with Cleveland Heights being Division I would be a better fit for me to showcase my skills. So I just want to get an opportunity to play against the best."

Hampton certainly held his own against the best in the country at the San Antonio combine despite slightly injuring an ankle on the day before the actual testing at the combine took place.

"I think I had a pretty good day down there," he said. "Unfortunately, early on I sprained my ankle, and I didn't really think that I was going to be able to do anything, and I was real disappointed. But I ended-up doing well in the one-on-one drills against some highly ranked players like Derrick Williams out of New Jersey and Greg Orton from Ohio. Testing-wise, I think I ran the fastest shuttle run there out of all of the DBs. I ran a 4.2 (seconds). Overall, I was satisfied with my performance there."

However his 40-yard dash time wasn't quite up to par. Hampton, who has routinely been clocked in the high 4.4 or low 4.5 second range, ran in the high 4.6 second range at the national combine.

"I wasn't initially going to do the 40 but when you get in that atmosphere and you see all of the other kids going out there running, you want to compete too," he said. "So I looked over to my dad and he said ‘Hey, give it a try, you really have nothing to lose here so just go out there and give it your best.' So that's basically what I did the whole day and it was painful the next day but I thought it was a fun experience and it was something that I enjoyed."

Just weeks later, a healthy 5-11, 176 Hampton turned in another strong performance at a Cleveland-area combine held in Berea, the practice facility of the Browns.

"I think I had a much better day there," he said. "Again I think I ran the fastest shuttle time and I ran a sub 4.5 (second 40-yard dash) that day."

Obviously those favorable times bode well for any aspiring young cornerback looking to attract the attention of college coaches. But that's just part of what Hampton brings to the table.

"I think with me, people say that I'm a pretty intelligent guy and a good leader, and I think I'm a pretty knowledgeable type of person out there," he said. "But I also bring good technique to the position, and I'm physical at the line of scrimmage with people, and I'm a good open-field tackler, more of a sure tackler I think. I'm working on my raw speed but I think I'm way more quick than fast, and that's what playing defensive back is all about. I think mainly my strength as a corner is to be able to accelerate on people and stay with them and be physical."

Hampton was originally on the varsity squad for the state championship team at Chanel in his freshman season although he wasn't able to garner any playing time.

"I dressed varsity that year and got to share in that experience and practice against Tony Franklin and those guys," he said. "And the next year, I ended up starting for Chanel. We were a senior-oriented team, but I was able to work hard and win that cornerback spot in my sophomore season, and I kept it through my junior year, and I've transferred to Heights now."

He's hoping to bring that prevailing winning attitude at Chanel over to the Tigers' program.

"Cleveland Heights has struggled a little bit and they're looking for me to provide a lot of leadership since I'm coming from a winning team," Hampton said. "I'm looking to offensively really help our team and defensively take away one side of the field. Ultimately I just want to help us win a lot of ball games this year and make it into the playoffs and, like I said, go against some of the players around here. I think it will be fun this year."

Hampton played on offense in his freshman year before he became a defensive back in a two-platoon system at Chanel. He led the Firebirds' JV team in scoring as a wide receiver on a run-oriented offense that year.

"I'll probably be playing a lot of receiver this year," he said. "With my quickness and speed, my coach wants to get the ball in my hands the best way that he can. Cleveland Heights runs kind of a spread offense where they like to pass the ball, and so he felt receiver would be the best spot. But he said that I shouldn't be surprised if I might carry the ball a couple of times here and there, so I'm open to anything on offense.

"I was really a receiver coming in to Chanel before I was actually a corner. I started getting into being a corner because I just realized that I could do it; it was kind of an accidental thing. I really was offensive-minded, but I kind of fell into corner and I started to really get good at it."

Every off-season now, Hampton hones his overall skills at the prestigious Sports Plant in Euclid, like so many other top athletes in Northeast Ohio do.

"I go there four times a week and we work on all phases of speed training," he said. "We work a lot on individual-type stuff as far as my position as a corner, being able to burst and being able to come up out of your backpedal and change directions fast. I think that's really one of my keys as to how I've become quick and fast, because of the Sports Plant. They taught me a lot of things about my body and about being explosive, and I would recommend that place to just about anybody."

Hampton has rubbed elbows and even worked-out with some of the biggest sports names in the college and professional ranks at the facility. Ted Ginn, Tony Gonzalez, Maurice Clarett, Roy Hall and Nate Clements are some of the past, present and future Buckeyes that Hampton has worked-out with there.

"They made me run with those guys because they felt like I was fast and quick enough where I was able to run with those top-notch players to push myself to be better," he said. "Those are just a few of the athletes that I've known from this area that I ‘ve competed against. All of the Glenville boys, Jamario O'Neal and those guys, every time we go up there we just love to compete against each other and try to make each other better."

Competing at the Sports Plant has improved his confidence immensely.

"You know Ted Ginn and Jamario O'Neal, those are two outstanding players, and I see myself competing at their level," Hampton said. "I say to myself, ‘You know what? These are Ohio State caliber players and I'm hanging right there with them.' I seem to be within their vicinity of skill level and speed, so maybe I'm an Ohio State caliber player too. So it just really boosts my confidence up when you compete with those kinds of people, and you feel like you're in the same class with them. So that's real important to me."

Of course, if Hampton could pick a school today to sign a letter of intent with, it would be Ohio State.

"From me being a kid and growing up as a Buckeye fan, I would have to say that they would be one school that if I had an offer from right now, I would definitely commit to," he said. "If you live in Ohio, you got to love the Buckeyes."

But he's keeping all of his options open if that dream scenario with Ohio State doesn't pan out.

"I'm looking at playing in the Big Ten, so I'm looking at schools like Michigan State and Iowa and places like that," said Hampton who boasts a 3.85 GPA and has a 23 on his ACT. "And also being a big academic person, I've drawn the interest of Notre Dame and Northwestern and all of those type of people. Ultimately, I think the Big Ten is where I want to be at because that's big-time football."

His summer itinerary isn't quite set yet, but he will be at the Nike Camp at Ohio State and he will be at the Senior Day for Ohio State as well. And being close with the Ginn family, Hampton is likely to hook up with Glenville boys as they make their annual trek to various college campuses around the country this summer as well.

"I've seen some of these top-notch players, and I've competed with them, and I'm right there with them," Hampton said. "I think I'm just one step away from being an Ohio State-caliber player, so I think everyone should look out for me this year. I'm moving up to a D-I school, and I'm looking forward to playing in some big matchups, so I'm just hoping that everybody can finally get to see some of my abilities on the field."

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