2020-21 KEVIN HIGGINS COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT
Jayla Hampton describes the rugby pitch as a safe haven and a community that embraces her for all of her best attributes. With no prior knowledge of the sport, she was approached by a teacher at her high school who suggested she belong on the pitch. To her confusion, she was unsure of what that exactly meant, but, by the teacher’s suggestion, showed up to practice the following week. The rest is history.
Hampton began her rugby career with the Soulsville Charter High School Rugby Team and served as a team captain for three consecutive seasons. With Soulsville, she helped lead her team to a 2016 conference championship and Tennessee State Championship title. Jayla also played for Memphis Inner City Rugby’s travel side and participated in many tournaments across the country. She was honored as MVP for her play with Memphis Inner City during the Tropical 7s and Middle Tennessee Battle of Stone River tournaments.
Her natural athleticism and feel for the game landed her among the best female rugby players in the country when she was selected as a USA’s Girls High School All-American in 2018. As an All-American, she played for the USA Girls U19 team against Canada both stateside and across the northern border. “Jayla is an undeniable talent. Any team is lucky to have her on their roster. I can say without a doubt in my mind she is the future of American Rugby. But, beyond her gifts and hard work, she cares about this sport and its future,” said Sanam Cotton, Head Coach of the Soulsville High School Girls Rugby Team.
Jayla graduated from The Soulsville Charter High School with a 4.3 grade point average. She excelled off the pitch and was an active member of many on-campus clubs and extracurricular activities. She was involved in Model United Nations and served as National Honors Society President. In addition to rugby, she participated in basketball, track, and choir. She participated in the three-summer residential STEM program, (MS)2 in Andover, Massachusetts, where she furthered her competency for rigorous math and science curriculum.
Her academic and athletic achievements have landed her an opportunity to continue her career at the next level. She will attend and play for Lindenwood Women’s Ruby and intends to pursue a pre-med track. Hampton has her sights set on becoming a neurosurgeon and would like to create a non-profit hospital for athletes that focuses on catered exams, diagnostics, and support for athletic related injuries and impacts, most importantly preventing CTE.
On the pitch, she wants to first strive to become a leader for Lindenwood and eventually take her talents to the international stage representing the United States. “Jayla has been an outstanding addition to the program. She is doing very well in all her classes and she has been training with our varsity side here as well. She has a ton of potential at the collegiate level and we are excited to continue to see her grow here,” said Billy Nicholas, Lindenwood University Women’s Rugby Head Coach.