Calvin Hampton

New Meridian High School football coach Calvin Hampton, center, is pictured during his introductory press conference Wednesday morning at the school. Pictured with him are MHS Athletic Director Chuck Butler, left, and MHS Principal Victor Hubbard.

Calvin Hampton didn't have much interview experience going into the process of finding a new head football coach at Meridian High School.

So when it came time for the Wildcats' offensive line coach to sell himself to the powers-that-be, Hampton said he just spoke from the heart and talked of his growing up around the Meridian High program and the Meridian community.

"I'm a Meridianite – I bleed Meridian," Hampton said. "I'm not here for an ego or to move onto the next step, I'm here to develop kids and Meridian and build Meridian. That's basically my message. I'm not concerned with myself."

It was that background that convinced Meridian Athletic Director Chuck Butler and others in charge to select Hampton, 1998 MHS graduate, as their new head football coach. Wednesday morning, Hampton was introduced as the man to replace Larry Weems, who resigned in December after a decade of being the head coach.

"The most important factor in his favor was that he was a former Wildcat who understands our tradition and understands the expectations of the community and what it takes," Butler said. "He has a huge excitement and overflowing amount of energy to keep us where we are and take us to new heights."

One thing working in Hampton's advantage going forward, Butler said, is his familiarity with how the program is run on a day-to-day basis.

"There's no substitute in athletics for experience," Butler said. "He knows what Meridian High School football is all about. He's played here and been on staff for 10 years, so he's totally familiar with the ins and outs of how we do things, procedures and policies, etc. There won't be a breaking in period in that respect."

Hampton said it's a special honor to be named head coach at Meridian, one he doesn't take lightly.

"It's a very exciting and emotional experience," Hampton said. "Meridian means a lot to me. The City of Meridian means a lot to me. These young men and ladies mean a lot to me. The honor of being a head coach, of being responsible for nurturing the hearts and minds of young men, it's beyond words."

Weems is now head coach at Jackson Academy, but that hasn't stopped him from keeping in touch with Hampton. In fact, Weems tried to call and text him during Wednesay morning's press conference, Hampton said.

"I talk to Coach Weems constantly," he said. "He's proud of me. Coach has done a good job of teaching me some things — the ropes of being a head coach. He chewed me out when it was time to chew me out, and he praised me when it was time to praise me. That's what a head coach is supposed to do. He really wouldn't have it any other way than for one of his own to get (the job)."

Though he's new to being a head coach, Hampton said he did a lot of behind-the-scenes work under Weems that helped prepare him for the job.

"The biggest jump will be maintaining the program, making sure it's being run efficiently and that everything comes through me," Hampton said.

As for his assistant coaching staff, Hampton said it was too early to determine how many of Weems' old staff would be retained in their current capacities. Butler, though, said Hampton will have total control of who he surrounds himself with.

"That's totally Calvin's call," Butler said. "The guys who are here have jobs. Where Calvin puts them within the system is up to him. We gave him two spots to totally go outside the system to hire whoever he wanted, whether it's coordinators or coaches to fill positions. He has that leeway to make a staff he's comfortable with and gives him the best opportunity."

Spring training will begin following the end of the spring sports' seasons, Hampton said, as he doesn't want to take away the opportunity for some of his players to be involved in other sports. Though it's early, Hampton said he has a good outlook on the 2016 season.

"One thing I can say is, they'll probably be one of the hardest-working groups we've had as far as the weight room goes," Hampton said. "We don't have the star power that everyone looks for, but we have a lot of blue-collar, hard-working guys. When it comes to winning football games, that's what you need."

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