Being first paid off for the East Carolina Pirates when it came to recruiting one of North Carolina’s top high school defensive line prospects.
The Pirates were the first college football program to offer a scholarship to J.D. Lampley from Richmond Senior High School in Rockingham way back in May 2020 while he was just a sophomore. The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder, who has already received a three-star rating from both 247Sports.com and Rivals.com, kept that in mind as other offers from schools such as Coastal Carolina, Air Force, Army, Campbell, Duke, Elon, Furman, Georgia Southern, Harvard, Liberty, Navy, Richmond, South Carolina and Yale came in over the next year.
The result was a verbal commitment from Lampley to East Carolina on June 27, making him part of a nine-player barrage of pledges to the Pirates between June 18 and 27.
“I’m not surprised he committed to East Carolina because he really liked them and it was clear from the get-go they weren’t offering him because somebody else did,” Richmond coach Bryan Till said. “They offered him because they believed in him, and that meant something to him. Those guys (ECU coaching staff) have done a great job. He’s really had a great feeling about his position coach, (defensive tackle) Coach (Roy) Tesh, so there are a lot of things that make it a good fit.”
Lampley has developed in one of the true hotbeds of football talent in North Carolina. Richmond has produced hundreds of major college players and dozens who have had significant NFL careers, including Super Bowl champions such as linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, receiver Tony Horne, defensive end Oscar Sturgis and cornerback Perry Williams. Most recently Richmond grad Melvin Ingram has earned All-Pro status at linebacker three times.
Experiencing that high-profile environment as a kid inspired Lampley to want to be part of the Raider tradition.
“When I was little I’d go to all the games with one of my friends and his parents,” Lampley said. “We’d travel with them everywhere. At one point, two of my friends, Kellan Hood and (UNC 2021 signee) Caleb Hood, their grandpa used to be the head coach, Paul Hoggard. So they were always the ball boys, as sometimes I’d go be a ball boy with them on the sidelines.
“So I was around the program a lot and always wanted to be part of it.”
Other members of Lampley’s family had already been part of the Richmond Senior athletic tradition. His father, Danny, was a star pitcher for the Raiders before heading off to Wingate College where he became the NCAA Division II career leader in strikeouts with 473. Danny Lampley later spent three seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization where he compiled a 25-18 career mark in the minor leagues. Older sister Savannah was a four-year all-league performer at Richmond in softball and earned a scholarship to UNC-Wilmington. She has since transferred to Wingate where she’ll follow in the footsteps of her father and mother.
Lampley’s mother, Angela Lampley, produced 60 career wins as a softball pitcher at Wingate and is now a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame along with her husband.
J.D. Lampley played both baseball and football through his sophomore year at Richmond before focusing on the gridiron. As a freshman, he played on the junior varsity football team before landing a regular role on the varsity as a sophomore.
“We used him a little bit of everywhere,” Till said. “As a sophomore he played in a 3-4 (defense) almost exclusively at nose (tackle). Then, last year we went to a 4-2-5 and he would play a three technique (defensive tackle), he played some nose and then he would play some end. He can do everything. He’s explosive off the ball and doesn’t have a problem speed rushing. I don’t know if he’ll be doing that a ton at the next level. But for us, we put him on the edge and he can be the tackle up the field getting to the quarterback, depending on the down and distance.”
Lampley compiled 25 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack as a sophomore on a team that finished 13-1 and advanced to the state 4AA semifinals. He earned All-Sandhills 4-A Conference honors as a junior when he collected 15 tackles and six tackles for loss for a second-round 4A playoff squad.
During the second-round playoff loss against Cardinal Gibbons, Lampley made a play that Till said is a good example of his talent.
“They throw a screen to the tailback,” Till said. “It was a big third down in that game that still gave us a chance in the second half. We didn’t play great in the first half and gave up some things. But that was a big play in the second half. I believe we went down and scored after that to make it a one-possession game.
“But the ball came out quick. He’s on the interior and runs the thing down for a two-yard loss. You don’t see a lot of defensive tackles doing that.”
Lampley also possesses exceptional power and intensity, according to Till.
“He is an extremely physical specimen,” Till said. “But the thing that makes him stand out is he has a motor. He plays and practices hard because he enjoys it. You can tell he’s having fun. That’s the thing that made him stand out to us, even as a young kid is that ‘this kid gets after it every play and every snap.’ ”
Although Lampley is firmly committed to East Carolina, Till expects more schools will become interested as the 2021 season unfolds next fall.
“I do believe some other people will come in because of the way this recruiting cycle has been,” Till said. “A lot of guys (coaches) haven’t seen his film, or had a chance to really look at the kid because of the way this (COVID-19 pandemic) has gone. But he’s pretty much done going to camps, so that’s going to stop. So I think he’s pretty solid to East Carolina in my opinion.”