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Prairie View DE Hamilton taking control of spotlight
Prairie View A&M defensive end Adrian Hamilton had to wait five years for his turn in the spotlight.
Now that it’s here, Hamilton is making up for lost time.
Hamilton has gone from a little-known asset to one of the Football Championship Subdivision’s premier pass rushers in his second season with the Panthers. The 6-3, 255-pound senior leads the FCS in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (15) to go along with team highs of 49 tackles, five quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles.
Hamilton’s strong play has bolstered the defense and helped the Panthers (4-2, 4-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) win three straight games and four of their last five entering Saturday’s clash at Alabama State (5-1, 5-0).
“I think once we moved him around and he started making plays, a lot of other people started feeding off him,” Prairie View coach Heishma Northern said. “When (opponents) can’t focus on one guy, it makes it easier for everybody to have success.”
For Hamilton, the path to stardom took as many twists and turns as he might make on a typical pass rush. He signed with Oklahoma State as a Rivals.com three-star recruit out of Dallas’ Carter High School in 2006 but didn’t suit up after failing to receive certification from the NCAA clearinghouse. He walked on at Texas Tech in 2007 and played sparingly before being dismissed by then-coach Mike Leach in August 2008 for a violation of team rules.
Hamilton transferred to Dallas Community College to improve his academic standing. Once that goal was met, he set out to find another program.
Hamilton transferred to Prairie View in 2010 and began rehabilitating his career in earnest.
“Transferring down and knowing I had to work just to stay eligible to play humbled me a lot,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton served as a backup in his first season, playing behind three-time All-SWAC defensive end Quinton Spears and Jarvis Wilson. He was a regular in the defensive line rotation, putting on a late-season surge to finish with 5½ sacks, eight tackles for loss and a blocked punt return for a touchdown.
This year he’s a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award, given annually to the Sports Network’s top defensive player in the FCS.
With five games remaining in the regular season, Hamilton has set his sights on breaking the SWAC’s single-season record of 20 set by Alabama A&M’s Robert Mathis in 2002.
Such an accomplishment would reward Hamilton’s patience.
“He wants to show everybody that he has what it takes,” Northern said. “He (wants to prove) he’s not just one of those run-of-the-mill guys who gets all these accolades and doesn’t show all the talent he’s been blessed with when he gets to the next level.”
Prairie View A&M at Alabama State
When/where: 1 p.m.; Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
TV/radio: None; 91.3 FM.
Records: Prairie View A&M 4-2, 4-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference; Alabama State 5-1, 5-0.
Last meeting: Alabama State won 18-15 last season at Prairie View.
Story line: Alabama State is the class of the SWAC and could strengthen its grip on the Eastern Division with a victory. Prairie View A&M has won three consecutive games, but the Panthers will be without starting quarterback Jerry Lovelocke (foot injury) for the second game in a row. Backup Jonathan Troast has proven he can lead the team to victory.
By the numbers: The Panthers lead the Football Championship Subdivision in sacks with four per game. … Alabama State has won eight consecutive SWAC regular-season games dating to 2010.
By RONNIE TURNER, THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE