When sophomore running back Omarion Hampton graduates from Cleveland High, the stories about him will linger on.
At 6-1, 210 pounds and 16 years old, he’s built like a player who has been in a college weight program.
The first time Cleveland junior linebacker Hunter Morris met Hampton, he noticed the veins popping out of his arms.
“I was like wow, he’s a freak,” Morris recalled.
Two years ago, Hampton hadn’t started working out regularly with the high school team yet. He showed up to Cleveland weighing 185 pounds, but he has since worked relentlessly in the weight room.
A recent viral video shows Hampton setting a new Cleveland squat record for running backs/linebackers. He’s under a squat rack, the bar loaded with multiple 45-pound plates, totaling 560 pounds, on each side. Hampton squats down, then pops back up like he had nothing but a leaf on his back. The next day, Hampton broke two more position records for the school: bench press (340) and incline (305).
It’s stories like those that will live on in the hallways of Cleveland High.
Hampton knows to never rests on those records, though, his head coach, Scott Riley, said. Each time he hits a max, he works harder to improve on it for the next time he’s tested.
Riley heard one such story about Hampton’s earlier playing days. In the eight games Hampton played in middle school, there were two where he never got tackled. When he had the ball, he either scored or got pushed out of bounds.
Morris saw Hampton do it again during a JV game last season.
Hampton hasn’t been tackled that much this season. In eight games, he has rushed for 1,283 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s only played in the second half of games four times. He’s No. 17 in the state in rushing, but could easily be in the top five. When Riley watches game film, he’s a fan of the star running back. But when Riley in on the sidelines talking to his defense during a game, he can tell when Hampton has done something amazing on the field.
“You hear people (cheering) in the background,” Riley said. “Then you get back in the film room and you’re like ‘Wow, that’s pretty impressive.’”
Defenders have a hard time catching him. Against Garner in Cleveland’s second game of the season, Hampton caught a short screen pass from Skyler Locklear. Surrounded by a group of defenders, Hampton casually adjusted his face mask as he turned up field, then proceeded to outrun the entire defense for an 80-yard touchdown.
Omarion Hampton, an all-around athlete
Last season as a freshman, Hampton also ran track. he was part of the 4x100 relay team. A 200-pound sprinter. He had never done the shot put before, but finished second in the conference in the event. During the winter, Hampton played basketball.
“They move me around a lot,” he said about which basketball position he plays.
Hampton carried the ball 48 times on the varsity football team last year, replacing Tyson Dew, who’s now at N.C. Central and had 1,365 yards his last season at Cleveland . But heading into his sophomore season, Hampton admitted he didn’t know how things would go.
“I just wanted to do the best I could,” Hampton said as he swatted gnats after practice ended.
Hampton is the most “low-key” guy Morris said he’s ever met. He doesn’t wear fancy accessories and there’s no flash to his game. He’s humble and also doesn’t talk much.
Dakota Marquess, Cleveland’s leading tackler, said he’s only seen Hampton get mad once during a game.
“I looked at him and I could tell that he was mad because he was acting a little different,” Marquess said. “He turned around the next play and just destroyed a guy.”
‘Going to be something special’
Morris and Marquess sized up Hampton when he first came to high school, and it didn’t take long to realize he wouldn’t be playing on the JV team very long.
“He earned most of the varsity’s respect very quickly,” Marquess said. “It was obvious he was going to be something special.”
Having to hit him every day in practice, Morris said he is glad Hampton is on his team.
“It would be a long, tough game if you had to tackle him for four quarters,” Morris said. “That’s a big man.”
Hampton, who started football in a Pop Warner league, got his first and only scholarship offer last month from Duke. It’s still early in his high school career, but so far Hampton isn’t a star player, according to 247Sports’ football recruiting stats on class of 2022 prospects. That should change after this season and summer camp.
Riley, who has coached in the area for 16 years, said Hampton is one of the best running backs he’s seen. The toughest he’s ever coached against was former Wilson Fike star, Re’Quan Boyette, who went on to play at Duke and is now recruiting Hampton as a Blue Devils assistant.
“My third game as a defensive coordinator and we couldn’t stop (Boyette),” Riley said. “Omarion is a little bit bigger, has the same speed. I haven’t personally coached against someone like him at running back. Yeah, I think he’s going to leave some type of legacy.”
Morris also recognizes just how special Hampton is.
“One day,” Morris said. “I think we’ll be very lucky to know that we played with him.”
Cleveland at Clayton
When: 7 p.m., Friday