- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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MERIDIAN, Miss. -- As C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian) walked through his high school gymnasium Tuesday night, he received what many would consider the celebrity treatment. There were no autographs or pictures taken, but it was clear that everybody knew who he was. He was greeted by each and every person he passed. He was the center of attention.
The basketball game featured Malik Newman, the nation’s No. 1 hoops prospect for the class of 2015, but all eyes were still on Hampton. It’s been that way all week for the ESPN 300 safety.
“I can’t really say it’s been a hard because at the end of the day, it’s an honor,” Hampton said. “People calling, just wanting to contact you. [They] want to talk to talk to you about playing at their school. It gets stressful at times, but I look at it more like there’s a lot of guys that want to be in this position. I just take it all in.”
Hampton, one of the more coveted football prospects in the Southeast, will make his college decision Friday at 5:30 p.m. CT, choosing between Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State and Ole Miss.
“I’ve been to all four of them,” he said. “Every time I go, there’s a lot of love shown there. They’re all top programs, and they’re surrounded by good people, great athletes and a great coaching staff.”
It’s not an easy decision, but it’s a decision that he’s made before. He originally committed to Ole Miss during the summer before his junior year.
At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer. The Rebels were the first to offer, and he had already built a strong relationship with the new coaching staff.
“Ole Miss was his favorite school,” said Hampton’s father, Calvin Hampton Sr. “Even when he was younger, he said he wanted to play baseball at Ole Miss. It was just always his favorite.”
Once Hampton was committed, the recruitment process began to take off. He started receiving offers from Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee and even Stanford, but it was an offer from Alabama, the two-time defending national champion, that made him question his initial pledge.
When he visited Tuscaloosa for camp in June, the UA staff made it clear that he was the No. 1 safety on their board.
“With C.J., they were like a bunch of wolves on a piece of meat,” Hampton Sr. said. “They were on him, and it was very sincere.”
Hampton never made it public, but he said it wasn’t long after his trip to Alabama that summer that he decided to reopen his recruitment.
“It always felt like you’re letting somebody down, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family for the next couple of years,” Hampton said.
Now it’s once again time to make a commitment to the school of his choice, but this time it’s final. He plans to enroll in two weeks, so there’s no going back now. Alabama and Ole Miss are both very much in the mix along with Arkansas and Florida State.
On Tuesday, the ESPN 300 star watched the basketball game with his Florida State hat on and a matching Seminoles’ lanyard hanging out of his pocket. It would seem as though he’s leaning towards the ACC champion if it wasn’t the fourth school he had represented that week.
“It matched the shoes," he said.
Hampton likes to keep people guessing, but the world will know his decision come Friday.
“I’m just ready for everything to be settled, for everyone to know what it is and to just chill out some," he said.
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