Hamlin Eyes Another Big Opportunity

JACKSONVILLE - It's a popular topic to discuss entering next Thursday's Konica Minolta Gator Bowl and it has nothing to do with the game itself - the 2009 NFL Draft.

Of course, that depends on who you ask.

While it would seem natural many of Clemson's seniors would be focused on having a big game against Nebraska not only to help their team win, but also to increase their chances in the upcoming NFL Draft, that doesn't seem to be the case at all.

Sure, fans are always curious to see where their favorite Tiger might end up in the professional ranks, but hardly a sound is being made this week as many familiar names go through their final week of practice wearing a Clemson uniform.

Players like Mike Hamlin, Aaron Kelly, James Davis, Cullen Harper, Dorell Scott are still focused on the task at hand- beating Nebraska.

"I'm just trying to enjoy the guys as much as I can because I know this is going to be one of the last times I'm going to be with them," Hamlin said. "I know this is the last game. I'm kind of sad. I'm just trying to enjoy it and focus on making sure we do everything we can to try and win this bowl game against Nebraska."

At the same time- the opportunity to improve their individual stock is there, especially with the Kinoca Minolta Gator Bowl being televised nationally on CBS.

In past seasons other players have seen their stock rise or fall with their performances in bowl games.

East Carolina RB Chris Johnson was one who's stock increased last year after an impressive performance in a win over Boise State. On the flip side Hawaii QB Colt Brennan saw his stock fall when the Warriors were rocked by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

"It's an opportunity," Hamlin said. "No question. But you want to try to go out there and play well and help your team win at all costs. I want to make plays to help us win and that's what I'll be trying to do, but you can't really go in there thinking you are trying to improve your stock for the draft."

Hamlin has seen his stock increase steadily this year after being named a first-team All-ACC performer for the second consecutive season.

In all, he led the Tigers and ranked fifth in the nation in interceptions this season with six and he also finished third in Clemson history in career interceptions with 14 and his 18 overall takeaways rank second only behind all-time great Terry Kinard.

Scout.com Draft Expert Chris Stueber tells CUTigers.com Hamlin's peformance this year has increased his stock, possibly all the way up to the third round of the 2009 draft.

"Hamlin is a solid third - fourth round prospect," he said. "He has a lot of great qualities teams look for in a safety, but he's a bit of a tweener. He lacks the size of a true strong safety, as he doesn't intimidate the opposition with his ability to deliver a devastating hit.

"He's more of a free safety at the next level."

And that's just fine with Hamlin, but he's not thinking about any of that stuff until after the bowl game.

The draft boards, NFL combines and Mel Kiper's of the world can wait.

"I'm just trying to enjoy myself," he said. "It's all about this team this week. I know this is my last game and my last chance to be with these guys out here practicing and I want to make the most of it.

"This is my last go at it at Clemson as a player, but after this I'll be trying to make it back as often as I can."

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