Rutgers defensive lineman Darius Hamilton ready to rebound
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Darius Hamilton's technique is as flawless is any defensive lineman in the country. So is his knowledge of the game.
But what stands out most to Hamilton's coaches and teammates at Rutgers is his ability to flip the switch.
''When he walks on the field he changes. He's a different guy,'' defensive line coach Shane Burnham said. ''I've been around him. He's a great kid. He'll do well in whatever he does in life, but when he gets on that field he turns into a nasty kid and that's what I like to see.''
Off the field, one of his teammates calls Hamilton ''a human jukebox.''
''He's listening to Paramore and One Direction and just chilling,'' friend and fellow fifth-year senior defensive lineman Julian Pinnix-Odrick said. ''Knows every song of every genre, but he's a cool guy. Not to outward. But when we're on that field the man really feels unstoppable.''
While Hamilton made headlines for his love for One Direction at last year's media days, he never got to show his dominance on the field. The three-time captain and All-Conference player saw limited action early in the season and then had to shut it down because of a knee injury.
Hamilton could have left for the NFL with a degree in labor studies. Instead he came back for a fifth season despite the firing of coach Kyle Flood following a tumultuous 4-8 season that included player arrests and an academic scandal.
It wasn't the first time Hamilton has seen a coach leave. He was recruited by Greg Schiano, who then left to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The son of former New York Giants defensive lineman Keith Hamilton understands there is a business side to sports.
''He's always been the one to explain to me how things work,'' Darius Hamilton said of his father. ''Especially when I was getting recruited, never get too emotionally tied to too many coaches. It's good that they're people that change and people that impact you forever, but it is what it is at the end of the day (when they change).''
Hamilton has bought in to what first-year coach Chris Ash is doing to revamp the program, which includes taking it slow with his injury.
It's not easy, but strength coach Kenny Parker reminded him it's about getting through the season, not just to it.
At this point, he's tired of people talking about his knee.
''A lot of people get caught up in how healthy I am this year and this, `100 percent this,' and `is he close?' or whatever, but I think what people got to understand is my junior year I wasn't 100 percent,'' Hamilton said. ''That's when I was going through playing almost every play a game and at 245 (pounds) I was hurt.''
Bulked up to 286 pounds, the knee injury that sidelined Hamilton is his first major injury of his football career. And Ash wants him healthy. So when Hamilton didn't play in the first scrimmage of training camp, Ash gave a simple rationale.
''I'm not nuts,'' he said. ''He's one of our best players. I'm not going to get him hurt before we get to a game.''
While he led from the sidelines last season, Hamilton knows his impact as a leader will change dramatically.
''I don't know if it made me quieter,'' Hamilton said. ''But to lead is tougher when you don't play because no one wants to hear from someone who's sitting here in a sweater and sweatpants when we're in a tough spot.''
While the expectations aren't as high as his freshman year, when Rutgers was one of the favorites to win the Big East, Hamilton thinks highly of this team.
''The only people that are going to predict how well we're going to do this year is ourselves,'' Hamilton said. ''I can remember when we were picked last in the Big Ten and we went 8-4, so it's going to be up to us to control our own destiny this year.''