Lamoni, IA -
60 years ago Graceland legend and Head men's and women's tennis coach Jerry
Hampton set foot on Graceland's campus.
What ensued over the next 60 + years is nothing short of
amazing. Following his men's tennis teams'
sixth straight (and tenth in the last twelve years) national tournament
appearance last week in Mobile, Alabama Coach Hampton quietly walked away from
coaching announcing to his team after its second round loss to Azusa
Pacific. What happened during that 60
years however, was far from quiet.
Coach Hampton was always popular with his students because
of his sincere interest in their lives. He recruited athletes to first be
students, and then players. He taught nearly every subject in what is now the
Health and Movement Science Division. He served as division coordinator for
more than 20 years and steered development of new academic majors along the
way. His work on numerous committees was tireless.
Coach Hampton says looking back now the decision to coach
and teach was an easy one.
"I was influenced to go into coaching by my high school and
college coaches and the choice I made was one of the best of my lifetime," said
a nostalgic Hampton about his resignation.
"Unless someone has coached a team, they wouldn't understand what my
career has meant to me personally. I've
truly looked forward to coming to Graceland every day and have never considered
it work. What I will miss the most is
the close associations that coaches create with student-athletes both while
they're playing and once they head out into the real world. Spending over half my life at a place I love
is something I'll cherish forever. I've
always said if I had to live my life over again, I wouldn't change a thing,"
Graceland AD Jeff Falkner was on hand in Mobile when Coach
Hampton made the announcement he would be stepping down. "I still really can't believe it," said
Falkner about the Hampton resignation.
"Part of me wants to be happy for him and the other part of me still
wants to still try and talk him out of it.
"Jerry has done so much for Graceland and the many students
who had the privilege of calling him coach.
Someone else will coach our tennis teams next season but nobody will
replace Jerry Hampton
," finished Falkner.
Several of Coach Hampton's current and former athletes had
wonderful things to say about what he has meant to them both while at Graceland
and since they've moved on. "Jerry has
always been a second father to me," said Ed Gensler ('70) former Graceland
wrestler. "There are too many
things to name that he has done for me.
He's been a mentor, a coach and I'm proud to say a friend. He married my wife Gayle (Levitt '73) and me
40 years ago and helped take care of my children while they were at
Graceland. It's hard for me to
comprehend Graceland without Jerry Hampton
," finished Gensler.
Graduating senior Jeremy Ackerer
commented on the impact that Coach Hampton had on him both as a collegiate
player and person.
"Coach Hampton has meant so much to so many of us. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to play
tennis in the states if it wasn't for him," continued a stoic Ackerer.
"What really made him special to me had nothing to do with what kind of
tennis coach he is. What sets Coach
Hampton apart is the type of person he is and how he treats those around him," finished Ackerer.
Jerry coached wrestling for 22 years, football
for 25 years and has coached tennis for 34 years. His wrestling teams were
never defeated in conference dual meets or tournaments. They won 22 of 22 HAAC
championships. His tennis teams have won 20 HAAC titles and he has been Coach
of the Year 20 times. He also coached golf, track and cross country. He was
inducted into the Graceland Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986.