West Linn's Mark Hamper proving he's one of Oregon's best
On offense, he's a lightning bolt.
On defense, he's a hammer.
On the roster, he's known as West Linn junior wide receiver/safety Mark Hamper (6-foot-3, 205 pounds), and he's one of Oregon's best football players.
Just listen to what West Linn coach Chris Miller — a former University of Oregon and Atlanta Falcons quarterback — has to say about his two-way star.
"Mark Hamper is our guy right now," Miller said. "He's … strong as an ox. He can run (and) he's probably our best leader overall. He has a really high football IQ and acumen."
At wide receiver, Hamper has been West Linn's best in 2021, teaming with first-year senior starting quarterback Chase Harmon to lift the Lions to No. 1 in the OSAA power rankings and, thus far, a 4-0 season record.
Through four games, Hamper has made 32 catches for 461 yards (a 14.4 yards per catch average and 115.3 yards per game average) with six touchdowns. His longest catch went for 69 yards against North Medford, but he's made plenty of other big plays, too, including a 49-yard TD catch against Jesuit, a 45-yard pickup against Camas and a 54-yard reception vs. the Crusaders.
After his team's season opener — a 17-3 win over perennial power Jesuit at Cronin Field in Beaverton — Hamper said the keys to his success were relatively simple.
"That's pretty much it — read our keys, play football, have fun," he said. "It's awesome."
Hamper's been great defensively, too, making two interceptions — one of which he turned into a 59-yard return against Jesuit — forcing one fumble and making one fumble recovery in the Lions' first three contests.
Regarding Hamper's play at free safety, Miller highlighted his nose for the ball and his love of contact.
"He's a ball hawk and has great instincts," Miller said, adding "He's badass. He's going to light you up. He's got a chip on his shoulder. If you go on a street fight, you want him by your side."
For his part, Hamper understands exactly why he moved into the spotlight in his junior season with the Lions — great coaching and sheer hard work.
"(It's been) weight training with Ryan Wells (Director of Sports Performance at Oregon City Physical Therapy) and (trainer) Brian McGill," Hamper said, and "speed and agility work with (West Linn assistant coach Alex) Molden."
Beyond his gaudy statistics, however, Hamper's value to West Linn is much bigger than his individual play.
"Mark Hamper and (junior linebacker) Earl Ingle are definitely the leaders of our defense for sure," Miller said. "He's got tremendous instincts. He's like a Chad Cota type or Brady Breeze — he has that type of innate feel. He just anticipates."
As a coach with one state championship and two title-game appearances to his credit — not to mention his own prodigious playing career — Miller said that Hamper's upside is huge.
"I told Mark he has a chance to be a Sunday guy," Miller said, referring to the National Football League. "He's like a quarterback. He's got probably the highest football IQ that I've had at West Linn besides (two-time Oregon Player of the Year and three-time Gatorade Player of the Year) Tim Tawa. Elijah Molden (a former West Linn defensive back who starred at the University of Washington and now plays for the Tennessee Titans) was that high in IQ as well."
As for his goals, Hamper is much more focused on the near future.
"The team goal is to win a state championship," he said. "Individually for me this year, it's to win Oregon's Gatorade Player of the Year. (And) in the long term, it's to play Division 1 football."
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