Calvin Hampton wasn’t looking for a grace period when he took over as head football coach at Southeast Lauderdale.
In early May, the Lauderdale County School Board approved the hiring of Hampton, who spent the previous three seasons as head coach at Meridian High School. “No honeymoon, no fireworks or cocktail parties” was his declaration at the school board meeting following the announcing of his hiring.
With summer conditioning well underway, Hampton said he’s working the players like he’s already on the hot seat. So far, he’s liked how they’ve responded.
“They’re still adjusting,” Hampton said with a chuckle. “It’s kind of like I’ve been rejuvenated. They’re getting used to being pushed to the limits, and even when (they think) they can’t be pushed anymore, I push them some more. There’s a fine line with it, but I take them right to that line before I pull back. It’s been a transition for them, but I’m constantly talking to them about changing the culture of Southeast football and letting them have some ownership in it. They’re working pretty hard.”
While it’s a new school and a new group of players, Hampton said with the way summer workouts are going, he’s enjoyed his time so far.
“Ball is ball,” Hampton said. “The game doesn’t change, you’re just at different places. I’ve been getting used to the administration, which has been great, and the school staff and district office have also been great. It’s been a pretty good transition.”
Last year, the Tigers finished 2-9 overall, 2-3 in regional play, and were eliminated in the first round of the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs. Hampton said the players want more, and he’s hoping the work they’ve put in this summer will help them get there.
“They’re scrappy,” Hampton said. “They’re eager to be great, from the junior high on up. They haven’t had a whole lot of quote-unquote accolades through the years, and they want it. They’re tired of being the quote-unquote doormats of the district.”
Senior defensive end/linebacker Jaiveon Malone said the workouts Hampton and his coaches have put them through haven’t been easy, but he feels like he and his teammates have adjusted well to Hampton’s coaching style.
“He’s a hard worker,” Malone said. “It’s tough, but at the same time, you see yourself getting better. Every day he’s ready to work, and he loves his job.”
Said fellow senior Jatryan Williams, “He’s hard on me. He pushes everyone and wants the best out of us.”
While the Tigers will field only a handful of seniors, Hampton said he’s still going to rely on the upperclassmen a lot this fall.
“We only have six or seven seniors — not many, but the thing is, this team is going to go as far as the senior group will take them,” Hampton explained. “They’ve taken an ownership approach to that. All the seniors have been great.”
Malone said it will be up to the seniors and other leaders on the team to step up in crunch time this fall, because even though he’s the head coach, there’s only so much Hampton can do on game nights.
“He’s on the field, but he can’t make plays or tackle people,” Malone said. “It’s important for us seniors to know what he wants done on the field.”
Part of showing leadership is showing up for summer workouts, and senior receiver Travis Moore said he’s been pleased with the turnout from everyone, not just the seniors.
“I think they’re going well,” Moore said. “Everyone is getting stronger in the weight room, and we’re getting a lot better than we used to be.”
Senior running back A.J. Bush said he’s enjoyed making it to the workouts despite how taxing they can be in the summer heat.
“I like how we’re putting in the effort, and I like the way (Hampton) pushes us to get better,” Bush said. “Everything is new. This is stuff we’ve never done before, and I love it.”
Said senior quarterback Travis Ruttley, “It’s bringing us together as a team. We’re pushing each other more and more every day.”
Derrick Ramsey said as a senior, he hopes his final year of high school football will be one he cherishes, and he wants to accomplish more than the Tigers have the previous three seasons.
“I want to turn it around,” Ramsey said. “It would mean a lot.”