Dria Hampton wouldn’t change a thing about the last four years. She’s happy with where she’s been and where she’s going.
“When I look into the mirror I can look into it and be honest with myself and be pretty happy with where I am today and the decisions I’ve made,” Hampton says.
That says a lot.
The Piedmont High School graduate wrapped up her college soccer career at Florida State University in May when her Seminole team lost to Penn State 2-1 in the NCAA Tournament Semifinals in San Diego.
Ending her career in the NCAA Semifinals might’ve always been part of Hampton’s plan, but playing at Florida State was not.
Considered a teenage prodigy since age 14, Hampton played with the U.S. National soccer team pool. After her freshman season at Putnam City North High School, Hampton transferred to Piedmont.
With no high school program at Piedmont, Hampton continued to play with her club team, ESC 90, where she garnered national attention, leading her team to eight state championships and three regional finals.
“I’ve coached for probably 20 or 25 years at the college and club level, and I can say it now because she doesn’t play for me, there’s no question she’s the most talented female I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with,” her dad and club team coach Jimmy Hampton said.
Her play at the club level brought every college in the country to Piedmont to recruit Hampton. Initially, she committed to perennial power Notre Dame. But a desire to stay close to home led her to do something no one expected. Rated as a consensus top 15 talent in the country, Hampton committed and signed with the University of Oklahoma’s fledgling soccer program.
Immediately, Hampton became the most high profile recruit in program history destined to change the future of the team. At the time, some said she could have the same impact on the Sooners soccer program that basketball star Wayman Tisdale had on Oklahoma’s struggling basketball program in the 80s.
“When you sign a player of her caliber, other great players around the nation notice and believe in what Oklahoma soccer is doing to have success,” then Oklahoma head coach Nicole Nelson said of adding Hampton.
At the time, Hampton admitted that OU was the safe choice for her.
“It was close to home, the coaches knew me from when I was young,” she said. “I didn’t have to prove myself to them as much.”
The ultra-talented Hampton didn’t disappoint on the field. The midfielder started in 19 of OU’s games as a freshman in 2009 and led the team with four assists, becoming only the second freshman in school history to lead the team in assists. As a sophomore team captain, she led the Sooners to the 2010 NCAA tournament and was named to the Big 12 All-Tournament while also being named an All-Academic team honoree by the Big 12.
But OU didn’t make the NCAA Tournament during her junior year, and at season’s end, head coach Nicole Nelson stepped down. Nelson’s resignation hit Hampton hard.
“Right then, the day she stepped down,” Hampton said of when she decided to transfer from OU.
The decision surprised plenty of people. Some criticized the Sooners star for her decision. But in Hampton’s mind, it was time to leave her comfortable surroundings and try something completely different. She chose to play her last season of college soccer 1,000 miles away in Tallahassee, Fla., at NCAA power house Florida State.
“I had never been away from home, so that was a big deal for me,” she recalled. “That was a very big risk for me, because you don’t know how things are going to go until you get there.”
When Hampton arrived at FSU, she found a roster with girls from Iceland, Japan, France and all around the United States that were going through the same transition she was.
“The girls were really welcoming and helpful,” she said. “We were all very different, but we all had the same goals and expectations for each other. We had a lot more in common than we thought we did.”
She started 11 games during her lone season at Florida State and says the semester helped her grow on and off the field.
“The soccer experience was one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “And it helped me not just as a soccer player, but as a human being. I grew up in ways I didn’t even think were possible.”
Hampton is back in Oklahoma this summer, playing semi-pro soccer for Oklahoma City FC of the Women’s Premier Soccer League and coaching with her dad’s club team. She had a tryout for the Kansas City FC, a team in the top women’s pro league in the U.S., and although the team didn’t need a midfielder at the time, Hampton’s dream of playing professional soccer is still alive.
“My interest is actually overseas,” she said. “I definitely stay in contact with people my college coaches know over in Europe.”
If she can’t play professionally, she says she would love to pursue a career in coaching.
Most importantly, Hampton has no regrets about anything.
“Everything I’ve gone through has molded me into the player, the person, the sister and the daughter I am today.”