Photo By Garrett Mitchell
Article By Garrett Mitchell
Hampton Wedman knew something had to change.
Diagnosed with ADHD as a child, the benefits from his daily diet of doctor-prescribed medications had long ceased to mitigate against the bouts of headaches and nausea he now suffered from at all hours of the day and night.
Something, anything, must be better than this. Hampton needed a cure.
He found one on the football field.
Wedman, Woodruff’s star linebacker and vocal defensive leader, has learned to conquer his diagnosis and the challenges it presents by using football as a conduit to focus his often-racing thoughts. The process, though, wasn’t always easy and the path from where Wedman was to where he is now was fraught with self-doubt and a longing to be what he considered ‘normal.’
A Happy, and Talkative, Kid
Hampton will never be seen without a smile on his face or kind words to say. The plurality should be emphasized because he loves to talk. It is a trait, said his mother Natasha, that he inherited from his father, a truck driver whose CB radio handle is ‘Smiley.”
To hear Hampton tell it, he has always just wanted people to be happy around him.
“I’m always happy and always outgoing,” he said. “I’ve always been happy and eager to meet new people and I always want to let people know I’m a great person and I want them to feel welcome to meet me.”
Some of Hampton’s teachers during his early grade school years, however, thought that perhaps he talked a bit too much. Never one to find trouble, the only conduct marks that he would bring home were for talking too loudly, in class, or in line with his classmates.
That, along with not always being able to focus in class and a drop in his grades, led Natasha to seek a medical opinion. The answer, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.
“A lot of kids, when they are young, they are noted as having too much energy or being too talkative,” Hampton said. “But I had an excessive amount (of energy). Going into school it was bad.
My teachers always called my parents to let them know, ‘Hampton’s not being a bad kid, he’s just talkative and he’s not always paying attention or being focused.’ That was a very hard thing for me to overcome and I think that was the biggest struggle growing up.”
I Am A Superhero
Now that Natasha had an answer for her son, Hampton needed a solution. His doctor prescribed him medications to help combat his racing thoughts but, ultimately, Hampton developed a strong distaste for his medicine.
Simply put, it was only making things worse.
“The medicine would help me calm down but it would also make me throw up,” recalled Hampton. “I would get headaches, it threw me off, and I hated it. I remember going into fifth or sixth grade, I didn’t want to tell my mom that I didn’t want the medicine anymore so I used to just hide the medicine inside my tongue and just spit it out because I hated it that much.”
Hampton finally broke down and told his mom what he had been doing. Rather than being angry, Natasha was more determined than ever to help her son.
“She told me that she was going to help me and that we were going to work through this together,” he said.
Natasha reached out to the local youth football league, hoping that perhaps playing a sport could help her son.
Soon, Hampton was in shoulder pads and playing the game that has now come to define him. He was following in the steps of his two older brothers, Cyd, a star at Woodruff years before, and Moe, a budding wide receiver for Spartanburg High School.
Still, persistent doubts plagued him as Hampton wanted to prove wrong anyone who doubted him.
“I was always being compared to Moe,” he said. “We were totally different because he does not have ADHD and he could control himself and focus. For me it was so tough. I would think, why am I so bad compared to my brother and I used to hate myself for it. I wished I could be like him and in my own thoughts, I wondered why I couldn’t be like my brother.”
Always there for her son, Natasha had an answer for Hampton’s self-doubts as well.
“I would put Hampton in front of the mirror,” Natasha said. “I would make him tell himself in the mirror, ‘I am a superhero.’ I wanted him to allow himself to know there is nothing wrong with the way you are and that you can do absolutely anything.
That’s how football came into play.”
Faith, Focus, and Football
A year later, and now starring on his middle school team, the old Hampton started to reemerge. Football, just as his mother had hoped, was becoming an outlet for Hampton to channel his thoughts and emotions into a single course of action.
Tackle the ball carrier.
And it worked. With his focus and grades improving, so did the demeanor of the perpetually happy young man who only ever wanted to make others smile. Not only was he coming into his own as a football player and student, Hampton was learning to conquer the challenges of his ADHD as well.
“When football time would come around, I would express my energy on the field,” Hampton said. “My dad let me know, hey, this is a great place to express your energy. Just try to focus in school and when you step on the field, let it all out.”
Natasha credits her family’s faith and love of football for changing her son’s life.
“I love watching how Hampton handles day-to-day situations now,” Natasha said. “We always put Jesus first and football second. Hampton took that up as a foundation. He learned that life happens and it’s how you respond when things are not in your favor that defines you. I would find notes of scripture that he had written that he used to help get him through his darkest moments.”
Hampton’s attitude now mirrors that of his mother. He openly speaks of his faith, stating that he no longer considers his diagnosis a hindrance but, rather, a blessing in disguise.
“I’ve always found joy, even in the worst situations,” he said. “I honestly see it as a blessing from God. It’s a blessing that I have. You know, bad things happen but now I look at the good side of it. That comes from my ADHD personality. I’m always happy.”
A New Beginning
Hampton played his first three years of high school football at Spartanburg. Then, months before his senior season, he decided to follow in his oldest brother’s footsteps and transferred to Woodruff for his final year of school.
As he had always done, it took Hampton no time to make new friends and to endear himself to teammates and teachers alike. Perhaps the only person who wasn’t quite sure what to make of the newest ball of energy to wear the maroon and gold was Hampton’s new coach, Bradley Adams.
“Hampton is a ball of energy every day and seems as if he would not be able to be disciplined enough to play on a Friday,” Adams said. “This was a concern early on when we first started getting to know Hampton, but he has proven he can focus and get ready to play football. He is extremely focused and determined when he steps on the field on Friday nights.”
Adams added that Hampton makes a positive impact on everyone he meets.
“He plays with a very high motor and he plays with heart and passion,” Adams said. “Football brings out the best in Hampton. He is able to make a difference in his teammates’ lives and he is able to keep his focus on playing the game at a high level.”
Watch Hampton play on Friday nights. He is equally jovial to his own teammates as he is to the opponents’ quarterbacks that he torments every game.
The first to bring his adversary to the ground, Hampton is also the first to help them up with a smile and pat on the helmet.
Then again, he has always had a knack for helping people back up,