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Quarterback skipping high school season; early enrolling at Liberty

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The coronavirus has ravaged the United States and wreaked all kinds of havoc on the sports world.

COVID-19’s impact hit close to home two weeks ago, when Davie’s 2021 football team lost its quarterback.

Nate Hampton had a decision to make: Stick around for his senior season in February/March/April or graduate from Davie in December and early enroll at Liberty University, which was the plan all along. He reconsidered his early-enroll plans after the season was pushed from fall to winter/spring. Early enrolling happens every year for Division-I football recruits. It’s never caused anxiety and bittersweet feelings because high school football, duh, is always played in the fall – except for 2020, when it often feels like we’re living in a Twilight Zone episode.

None of us has seen a year like 2020. This is the first time ever that high school football recruits have had to make such a decision.

So it’s a great time for Hampton. He’s reached a goal and he’s living a dream. He’s headed to a program that has caught fire under coach Hugh Freeze.

On the flip side, it’s a bummer for the War Eagles, who will deal with unknowns at the most important position on the field. On the bright side, it’s an opportunity for the next man up.

It’s hard to blame Hampton for getting on the Liberty campus early so he can learn the system, start competing, gain experience during spring practice and get familiar with big-time football. After all, what if we don’t have a high school football season? During a pandemic year, nothing is certain.

Hampton, the highest-rated QB to ever sign at Liberty, did a question-and-answer interview with A Sea of Red.

What attracted you most to Liberty?

Hampton: “I think the coaches. That’s what started me off to get me to go visit the school. The relationships I was able to build with them, the way they kind of treated me and the love they showed to me. That was the thing that really started my love for Liberty. Then getting there and seeing what the campus looked like, the type of people that were there and that they build champions for Christ.”

What are your thoughts on this year’s Liberty team?

Hampton: “This year’s Liberty team is incredible. I think it’s still a slept-on team, because they only have one loss to N.C. State and that was by one point. I think they are building something really special over there on the mountain.”

What do you want to accomplish while at Liberty?

Hampton: “My biggest thing, I want to have an undefeated season and go to the college playoffs.”

As you sign your official letter of intent, where does this rank of special moments in your life?

Hampton: “It’s definitely up there, finally making it official. I think it’s going to be one of the highlights of my life and I think me and the other recruits and the coaching staff are gonna have a lot of fun and make a lot of memories there.”

What was the main factor for you in recruitment?

Hampton: “My biggest thing was finding somewhere that I can fit as a person and as a player. I think a lot of schools may have fit some aspects of my life, but not all of them. I think they’re really gonna fit me all around. When it comes to football, when it comes to my religion, and when it comes to the people around there and just everything that I want to accomplish in life, it just fits me in every aspect. I couldn’t be happier.”

Will you be enrolling early?

Hampton: “I will be enrolling early.”

Hampton could have crushed a ton of records in 2021, but he will still go down as one of the most prolific passers in Davie’s 65-year history after making 22 varsity starts in two years.

In season records, he ranks first in completions (263) and passing yards (3,295) and fifth in touchdown passes (22).

In single-game records, he holds the second, third and fourth spots for passing yards (411 vs. Mooresville, 402 vs. Reagan and 388 vs. Kannapolis). He’s tied for second in TD passes (four, which he did three times). He’s the only Davie QB to complete 30-plus passes in a game; he had 31 against Glenn and Reagan and 30 against West Forsyth.

In career records, he’s first in 300-yard passing games with five, second in pass attempts with 689 (Garrett Benge had 732 from 2005-07), third in completions with 387 (Benge had 443 and Chris Reynolds 409 from 2014-16), third in passing yards with 4,712 (Benge had 6,392 and Reynolds 5,636) and fourth in TD passes with 30 (Reynolds had 59, Benge 57 and Parker Correll 44 from 2012-14).

Huge Sports Family

Has there ever been another Davie County family to produce three D-I athletes? Maybe there has, but the list is definitely short.

Ryan and Lori Hampton of Advance already have two kids playing at the D-I level, and Nate is on his way.

Peyton Hampton plays football at Army. The 6-1, 226-pound sophomore is a linebacker and special teams player. Army went 5-8 during Peyton’s freshman season, but the Black Knights are flying high at 9-2 in 2020. They will carry a three-game winning streak into the Liberty Bowl, where they will face West Virginia on Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. on ESPN. Peyton has appeared in nine games this year, making four tackles.

Peyton and Nate’s older sister, Ashlyn Hampton, is a 6-1 senior forward at Campbell. She started the opener, a 70-65 double-overtime loss to North Carolina Central, and controlled nine rebounds. As a role player, she doesn’t score a lot of points, but she’s played at least 18 minutes in each of Campbell’s five games, three of which were victories.