Despite having Division I football experience at the University of Georgia, defensive back Jakar Hamilton has an uphill battle for a starting job at South Carolina State.
Listed ahead of the Johnston native on the secondary depth chart are two preseason honorees in Darius Drummond and Stephen Murphy and promising freshman free safety Kimaro McFadden.
That challenge, however, may pale in comparison to what Hamilton faced in the classroom after transferring last January just to earn eligibility to play one season with the Bulldogs of Orangeburg.
“A lot of hours,” Hamilton remembered following Monday’s practice. “Starting off with my first semester here, I took like 19 hours. Even over the summer, I took 18 hours. So, every semester and every class was pretty much crucial in order for me to play this season and if I would have came short, then all of it would have been a waste.”
So uncertain was the Strom Thurmond High School graduate’s status he was not listed on S.C. State’s depth chart at either cornerback or safety. This past Friday, he and the Bulldog coaching staff received the good news from the school’s clearinghouse making Hamilton available for the upcoming season.
“He had probably the biggest hill to climb of anybody I’ve seen come into our program,” S.C. State defensive coordinator Mike Adams said. “With the amount of hours he had actually to get through between spring and summer, that was a major test and I’ll be honest with you. It really showed me how much this season and how important it was to him. Having that kind of obstacle in front of him lets me know exactly what he’s capable of off the field and maybe says a lot about his character, hopefully. I’m kind of encouraged by that and hopefully, he’ll do the same on the field.”
In the 6-1, 200-pound Hamilton, who was a junior college All-American at Georgia Military College and had 27 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown in 2010 for Georgia, the Bulldogs get a versatile defensive back whom Adams sees as a hybrid between two former Bulldogs who were also Division I transfers now in the NFL — Christian Thompson (Baltimore Ravens) and Dominique Ellis (Kansas City Chiefs).
“His ability to play both certainly gives me a lot of flexibility within our defense,” Adams said. “With him out there at corner, I feel like we get a guy that maybe can take a team’s best receiver maybe out of a game in some of the man-style cover stuff. With him back there at safety, we get a tremendous run support guy. So we just kind of see where we need him the most, depending on who we’re playing this week.”
Hamilton said he’s more comfortable playing corner due to his size advantage and speed, but also has had success at free safety. It’s also a more relaxed Hamilton the Bulldogs are getting now that he’s only 10 credits shy of graduation.
Hamilton found motivation watching Thompson and Ellis as well as inspiration from other former Bulldogs who reached the NFL, like Phillip Adams (Seattle Seahawks) and Rafael Bush (Denver Broncos).
While he hopes to follow in those respective players’ footsteps a year from now, S.C. State would like to see Hamilton have the same success as former Georgia transfers wide receiver Tavarus Morgan and offensive lineman James Lee (now with the Washington Redskins).
“You want to make sure that you’ve got a real need for a particular person for a particular position,” Pough said. “Last, but not least, you want to make sure he’s the kind of person that you feel good about trying to integrate into your whole schemes of things. The guys that we brought in here, we really like a lot and they’re real good guys. So I’m excited by the fact that we’ve got some guys that can possibly fill some needs that we lost from last year.”
S.C. State will hold a 9:10 a.m. practice today at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.
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