Kyle Hamilton doesn’t need your accolades — but he gets them anyways
Aidan Thomas | Friday, October 16, 2020
In the age of the crystal ball and recruitment rankings, some may see drama made over who is being underrated and overrated as a recruit, which players deserve five-star ratings and everything else. So when current Notre Dame sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton — eventually ranked as a top-10 safety in his class — was listed as a three-star, was he a little annoyed, given he was being recruited by the likes of Notre Dame, Georgia, Michigan and Clemson? Would he, like so many recruits before him, make his ranking a proverbial chip on his shoulder entering his college career?
The short answer: no.
“When I first saw I was a three-star, I was pretty excited,” Hamilton said, “Seeing my name on a website with a ranking — it was pretty eye-opening”.
So maybe there is no chip on Hamilton’s shoulder, but he hasn’t really needed it since joining the Irish secondary, becoming an elite playmaker from the moment he stepped on campus. In his true-freshman year in 2019, Hamilton racked up four interceptions, leading the team, including a pick-6. He also notched 41 tackles and was a key contributor all season long.
Last year, Hamilton was a freshman, and he spent much of his time soaking up as much as he could from veterans like eventual sixth-round NFL draft pick Alohi Gilman, whom Hamilton roomed with during road trips.
“He had a big influence on the player I am today,” Hamilton said of Gilman. “He taught me a lot of life lessons, and I just try to emulate the good traits that he has and then apply them to myself.”
This year, Hamilton is one of the leaders of the defense, flashing his talent as a safety who can both be used in coverage or in blitz packages. Despite taking on a heavy leadership role as a sophomore, Hamilton still benefits from a veteran presence in the secondary, in sixth-year player Shaun Crawford. Crawford’s experience helps Hamilton along the way.
“It kind of makes you feel safe,” Hamilton said . “They know what they’re doing. It elevates my game. We’re working together, and we respect each other equally”.
Crawford said he finds the same comfort in playing alongside Hamilton.
“Because I have him next to me, I trust him,” Crawford said. “I trust that he’s going to make me right if I’m wrong.”
Hamilton played in two of Notre Dame’s three games this fall, and he is tied for the team lead in tackles with 15. He has yet to record a pick, although Crawford notched one against Florida State. Through three games, the Irish are giving up just 13 points per game, which ranks eighth of the 76 teams that have played so far.
That mark comes with a sluggish performance against Florida State this past weekend, in which the Irish gave up 26 points while struggling to contain dual-threat quarterback Jordan Travis. Hamilton attributed the sloppiness to some poor practices, saying the Irish were locked in on preparing for Louisville’s Malik Cunningham, who can be lethal with both his arm and his legs.
“It all starts in practice. Last week, we had a few iffy practices, and we can’t afford that. We can’t waste a rep,” Hamilton said.
The Irish have their eyes on No. 1 Clemson, an ACC championship and snapping a 32-year drought for a national championship. Hamilton will be a key part of any run that comes close to accomplishing those goals, but he isn’t caving under the pressure.
“In terms of people saying I’m a star, that’s good and all, but I try not to get caught up in that,” he said. “Just try to be myself and keep down the path I’ve been going.”
Taking time away from football during the week helps Hamilton focus on that path, he said.
“Once I feel like I have the game plan down for the week, I try to leave that in a different space and focus on being a regular college student — hanging with friends, playing video games, and stuff like that,” he said. “That keeps me humble, knowing that I’m never too big a deal.”
Hamilton said he remains driven to improve his own play as a safety and to help Notre Dame reach their lofty goals.
If Notre Dame continues to improve on their current No. 4 ranking in the AP Poll, the sophomore safety and Atlanta product will be front and center, quarterbacking this Irish defense. But he said he doesn’t want the spotlight.
“I don’t get caught up in accolades,” Hamilton said. “Once I start doing that is when I start falling off.”