Highly recruited Jags prospect skipped high school, heads to D-1

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CAN’T BE STOPPED — Defensive tackle Alfonso Hampton (90) shakes off two defenders as the Jaguars beat Mt. San Jacinto 42-6. He is ranked a top-10 recruit by ESPN.com.  John Domogma/staff

CAN’T BE STOPPED — Defensive tackle Alfonso Hampton (90) shakes off two defenders as the Jaguars beat Mt. San Jacinto 42-6. He is ranked a top-10 recruit by ESPN.com.
Photo By John Domogma

Thousands of community college football players dream of being ranked a top-10 national recruit. It never crossed Alfonso Hampton’s mind. He was ranked as the 10th  best community college recruit in the country by ESPN and never saw it coming. He learned to play football at SWC.

From scratch, square one, the starting line.

He did not play a down of football in high school.

“I wasn’t really interested in it,” he said. “Just kind of floated around school doing my own thing until I came here.”

A 24-year-old public relations major who graduated from Morse High School in 2007, he did not enroll at SWC until 2012, with a little help from his family.

“My sister brought me up here,” he said. “I told her I wanted to go back to school just for my education. I was just working jobs, like security jobs, so I told my sister I wanted to better my future and asked her help to enroll. My sister is real smart. She brought me up here.”

Football coach Ed Carberry corroborated Hampton’s version of events.

“His sister brought him by one day over to [Athletic Director Terry] Davis,” he said. “Then he brought his sister and him over to me in the weight room and his sister says ‘Hey this guy’s gotta play football.’ OK. We won’t turn away a 6’5” 325 pound man.”

On the field, Hampton plays like a man possessed. Carberry said his raw talent was evident from his first practice.

“It kind of startled me,” said linebacker Khaalid Abdullah. “When I first saw him I thought he had been playing forever. He learns quick, just been doing well. Can’t say anything bad about him.”

Linebacker Jeremy Burgos agreed.

“I didn’t even realize playing with him for the last two years that he didn’t play high school football, he just seemed way too natural,” Burgos said. “He was just naturally talented and wherever he goes he’s going to get worked up on, more technique. He’s going to be a monster.”

Hampton might be on his way to becoming a monster on the gridiron, but off the field he resembles Cookie Monster more than Frankenstein.

“He’s kind of to himself, but he’s not to himself,” said cornerback Vicente Stafford. “He’s the biggest goofball if you get to know him.”

Hampton said his inexperience was a blessing and a curse.

“I think it had its pros and cons,” said Hampton. “I wasn’t accustomed to anything so they were like ‘you gotta stop doing this, you got to do it this way,’ but it was also like ‘he doesn’t know how to do this, so we gotta teach him how to do this.’ For the most part I feel like it was a lot easier for them because I didn’t have the bad habits so they were just able to mold me and teach me the basic parts.”

Starting from scratch is not ideal, but Carberry said he was working with one of the best blank canvasses he could ask for.

“He’s a genetic freak,” he said. “He’s 6’5” 330 pounds and runs around like a guy who weighs 185. He shouldn’t be able to do that at his height and weight but he can. He’s very athletic, got low body fat. He has what we would call ‘country strength.’ He benches 400 pounds but if you told him ‘hey go grab that refrigerator and put it in the back of the truck,’ he could do it.”

Country strength helped Hampton total five and a half sacks, 32 tackles, four pass deflections, and a blocked kick in just his second year of playing organized football.

“It felt natural once I figured out what was what,” he said. “It just felt natural, like I was built for this. The feeling I get from just being out there is different, I’ve never had that from doing anything else in my life.”

As a top-10 recruit, Hampton will undoubtedly get a chance to continue to develop his skills. Now that ESPN has taken notice, it is only a matter of time until a prestigious program follows suit.

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