2012 Football: Rowan County's family affair

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2012

By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Imagine this scene at the supper table: Joe Nixon, Danny Misenheimer and Ben Hampton staring down at a plate.
All big boys with appetites for food and football.
All three are related and all three are Rowan County football coaches, so there will be a lot of talk about the upcoming high school season.
In between bites, that is.
“When we get to the supper table, we don’t do much talking,” chuckled Nixon, the long-time West Rowan assistant and new North Rowan head coach — and husband of Hillary Hampton, one of West Rowan’s greatest basketball players ever.
“It’s definitely going to be supper time first,” nods North assistant Ben, brother-in-law of Joe and brother of Hillary.
Misenheimer, the new head coach at East Rowan and cousin of the Hamptons, agreed.
Now, add Patrick Hampton, who is brother of Ben and Hillary, and now an assistant at his alma mater, West Rowan. And West Rowan assistant Darrell Misenheimer, Danny’s dad and Ben’s summer boss.
Imagine them all sitting at the table of Gay and Rick Hampton — once athletic stars in their own right — and parents of Ben, Hillary and Patrick, and in-laws of Nixon and ….
You get the picture. With the hirings of Nixon and Misenheimer at North and East, this football season is one big family affair.
“The opportunity to work with family is always a bonus,” said Ben of joining Nixon at North after years at Carson. “I saw a chance to rebuild another program. I wanted to be part of something big.”
After leaving West, Ben played for David Bennett at Coastal Carolina, which was starting its program. Then at Carson, he helped a program that started 0-22 improve to 10-3 by 2010.
Speaking of family, Nixon comes from a coaching background. His father and grandfather were coaches, as is his brother currently.
“Joe can bring some bloodlines of great coaches,” Ben said.
Ben remembers feeling at home regardless of what opposing Rowan County stadium he entered.
“For years, I’d walk into my home school at West and compete against my brother-in-law while my brother was playing,” he said. “And now, Patrick’s coaching at West.”
“We actually sat around the table last night giving each other crap,” Patrick said. “Just having fun with it. We all have fun with it.”
Nixon says when he arrives home, he tries to put football on the backburner.
“When I go home, I don’t want to do anything but play with my son,” Nixon said of his 15-month-old, appropriately named Hampton.
Misenheimer calls the family affair “a cool dynamic.” Especially since he and Nixon are beginning their head coaching career at the same time.
“It’s really good that we’re brand new head coaches,” he said. “We can ask each other questions.”
This Friday, they walk out on the field for the first time as the men in charge.
“Me and Joe picked about it,” Misenheimer said. “We’ll probably throw up before the first game.”
“I imagine,” Nixon mused, “there won’t be much sleep going on.”
Nixon seems ready for the challenge.
“Somebody told me a long time ago that when the ship goes down, you go down with the ship,” he said. “Do it your way.”
They’ll do it their way at the supper table, too. And when the plate is pushed away?
“When supper time’s over, it’s football or baseball or something to do with sports, nonstop,” Ben said.
Things won’t always be bright and rosy, but there are countless family members who will be there to stroke their brows. This group sticks together.
“The family went to the beach,” Misenheimer said. “About 45 of us. The Whites, the Lannings, the Hamptons, the Misenheimers …”
But when they gather at the supper table, there’s a lot of good athletic genes.
And a lot of food and good-natured ribbing.
“It’s constant nagging,” Patrick said. “Me and Ben kept nagging Mom whether she’s coming to North Rowan or West Rowan.”
Gay’s response? Patrick just laughed.
“She said if we kept messing with her, neither one.”