CARY, N.C. — Only 6.1 percent of high school baseball players get the opportunity to play for an NCAA program. For high school football players, the number is even lower — only 5.7 percent. Considering this, it is obvious that the majority of high school athletes won’t play a sport in college.
So what does that say about the athletes who will play multiple sports in college?
Maurice Hampton Jr. is a rising senior at Memphis University School in Arlington, Tenn., and is one of the rare athletes that not only plays multiple sports, but thrives in multiple sports. According to 247Sports, Hampton Jr. is a four-star cornerback who is rated as the 15th-best cornerback in the country and the second-best football player in the state of Tennessee.
In baseball, he has been named to multiple All-American lists while also being invited to the USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars. Hampton Jr. is committed to play both sports at Louisiana State, a school that has won multiple national championships in both football and baseball.
“Maurice is a tremendous worker,” said Memphis University School baseball coach John Jarnagan. “He is unusual in the fact he is a young person who is a self-starter. He works almost too hard to a fault because he is a dual athlete. He is also a sprinter on the track team. I do not have to motivate him to work — he calls me.”
Athletes in the past have excelled in both football and baseball; players such as Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders are two of the most notable examples. However, that doesn’t take away from how difficult it is for these special athletes to balance their time.
“It is at times,” said Hampton Jr., when asked about the difficulty of playing multiple sports. “But when it’s baseball season, I strictly play baseball. And when it’s football season, I strictly play football. So I just try to manage them during the season and be the best that I can during that time.”
Hampton Jr. may occasionally find balancing both sports difficult. However, his football coach Bobby Alston is confident in his ability to succeed as a dual athlete.
“Maurice has such a strong work ethic that my biggest concern is that he gets enough rest,” Alston said. “His natural talent is such that he is way better than most anyway. So we try to monitor his workload to keep his body fresh.”
While Hampton Jr. focuses on only one sport at a time, he said that some of the skills that he uses in football as a cornerback translate to his play on the diamond.
“Especially in the outfield,” Hampton Jr. said. “Me playing (defensive back), having to guard receivers, having to flip my hips. I use those skills to track down fly balls in the outfield.”
Another part of Hampton Jr.’s involvement in football that translates to baseball is his build and strength. The Tennessee native’s broad shoulders and muscles provide him a solid frame and give him plenty of raw power in the batter’s box. At the Tournament of Stars, Hampton Jr. showcased his power, pulling two balls deep down the left field line — one dying on the warning track and the other slicing just foul.
“Physically, he is super strong,” Jarnagan said. “He can run and throw. Both of these aspects make up for a lot of potential mistakes. He can defend gap to gap in centerfield. In high school that is huge because everything is caught or runners cannot take extra bases because of his arm. A mistake pitch to him can be an instant run for us. Overall, I think his athleticism is a major plus in baseball because it allows him to be competitive in every phase of the game.”
Although his outstanding athleticism helps him in both the field and at the plate, Hampton Jr. said that hitting is still the area of his game that he is working the most to improve.
“Hitting’s difficult,” Hampton Jr. said. “I work on it everyday, but just trying to get better and better. I want to be the best at what I do.
“Just as many reps as I can everyday. Just repeating the correct way of doing things. Just repeat, repeat, repeat. That’s how you succeed at baseball—just repeating and doing things the right way.”
Assuming that he sticks with both baseball and football, Hampton Jr. might have a tough decision to make after his senior year of high school — play both sports at LSU or turn professional in baseball. Regardless of his future, Hampton Jr.’s coaches believe that he will succeed.
“Maurice is a special athlete and a special young man,” Jarnagin said. “Whatever he does, he will leave a mark.”