High school football: Influential coach and mentor Lonnie Hampton dies

Coaches can change lives. Lonnie Hampton did it countless times over the years and Dante Culbreath is just one example.

Culbreath, Simeon’s football coach, reflected on Hampton after the latter’s death last month.

Hampton coached football and baseball as an assistant at Simeon, was part of the successful Jackie Robinson West youth baseball program and coached basketball at John Ferrin Elementary School over a long career.

“Me personally, had I not met coach Hampton, I have no idea where I’d be right now.” Culbreath said.

Their paths crossed when Culbreath was in elementary school.

“I was just a big 11-year-old,” Culreath said. “Looked like I was 14.”

He was playing basketball at an open gym.

“I was talking about how I was the best fifth grader in the world,” Culbreath said. “[Hampton] couldn’t believe I was in fifth grade. He called me over and wanted to know all about me.”

As he did with so many other South Side kids, Hampton helped Culbreath understand where his talent could lead him.

“It was the fact that he knew I had potential in me and he knew how to get it out of me,” Culbreath said.

Hampton worked with two Simeon legends in football coach Al Scott and Leroy Franklin, the winningest baseball coach in Public League history.

“He was a real legend in this town,” Culbreath said.

Services have been held.

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