It's hard to believe after all those thrills and chills, but "The Little Cat" is leaving the Valley. Actually, Nelson Hampton took off for West Texas a few days ago, headed for a new world at South Plains College in Levelland, where he will seek to learn a whole new routine as a decathlete.

Levelland is a town of about 15,000 lying some 30 miles west of Lubbock, and it is there that the Jags' super-duper-athlete will continue his sports career after being granted a track and field scholarship.

Coach Doug Erickson, who has been one of Hampton's main mentors for four years at the school, said that he believes his departing star will be able to contribute much to the South Plains team. The decathlon is a grueling 10-step competition that combines speed, strength, and endurance, with events ranging from the 100-meter dash into the pole vault and discus, and through to the 1,500-meter run and marathon.

"There are two kinds of decathlete, the thrower, and the runner who does better in the springs, hurdles, and jumps," said Erickson, who still holds a number of long-distance running records at UTPA. "Obviously Nelson is going to be the latter type, but I think he has the natural ability to learn all 10 events and compete at a high level."

Hampton was a four-year starter in football who enjoyed a great measure of success for the Jags, and was a regular at the regional track and field meet. He says he is excited about the chance to keep his athletic career going.

"I am sure I will miss football some, of course, but this is a good opportunity for me," said the speedster who dominated the long and triple jumps. "I have talked to the coach and I like him, it sounds like it will be a good situation for me."

Always a soft-spoken and well-liked chap, Hampton admitted to being a little hesitant to leave home, like all good Valley sons. But he noted that he has always wanted to be a college athlete and so leaves family and friends with the goal of bringing success and fame to the Valley, and Econ.

"It's gone by so fast, it's sort of weird to imagine, I am going to be making a new start up there, I hope I can make it," he added, with his usual modesty. "My family, they're all proud of me for this, but we're all sort of nervous about the changes. But I am going to go up there and give it my best shot, I think it will be fun."