Hamilton's Long Road

ATHENS – There have been very few direct lines in Jakar Hamilton's career, but the overriding goal has never changed.

Hamilton comes from a family of athletes, and his older brother, Mike Goodson, has already made it to the NFL. In his ongoing sibling rivalry, that meant the standard for Hamilton's career has already been set.

"Oh yeah, I've got to make pro," Hamilton said. "If I don't, I'll feel lame. It's just always been a goal for me, so I just strive to reach that goal, push myself and work hard every day."

Hard work has never been a problem for Hamilton, but finding the right path to get him to the NFL hasn't always been easy.

In high school, Hamilton was a star on the offensive side of the ball at both running back and receiver. Now, he's making a name for himself by laying out ball carriers as a safety.

Early on, Hamilton was pegged for his home state school of South Carolina, but a diversion to junior college changed everything.

And when Hamilton finally found a home at Georgia, even that plan was shaken when the Bulldogs fired most of the team's defensive coaches, including Hamilton's presumed position coach, Willie Martinez.

But through all the turmoil, Hamilton hasn't changed much. He rolls with the punches, and he feels at home no matter where he's at.

"The first day I met him, that first meeting, he was clowning with us," said fellow safety Nick Williams. "He has a good personality. He's outspoken, speaks what's on his mind, and everybody likes him for that."

It's not that Hamilton is indifferent toward his surroundings. He readily admits he misses scoring touchdowns as a running back, and he'll more begrudgingly hint that his confidence in coming to Georgia was shaken just a bit when Martinez was fired. It's that Hamilton has never let where he's at overshadow where he wants to be.

Although he was committed to South Carolina, grades forced him to head for Georgia Military College for two years out of high school.

The military life wasn't easy, but Hamilton said he learned a lot about hard work and toughness. This spring, he said, he hasn't been able to complain about the heat and tough practices. At GMC, every practice was done in full pads at full speed, no matter the temperature.

But GMC also opened a few more doors for him on the recruiting trail, too. After an exceptional freshman season in which he garnered the nickname "The Hitman" due to him immensely physical style, suitors from across the country came calling, and Hamilton narrowed his options down to two – Alabama and Georgia.

"I felt Georgia was the better choice for me being with my family and Coach Mark Richt being such a good coach and just the tradition of being here at Georgia," Hamilton said.

After committing, however, things took a turn. Hamilton was set to arrive at Georgia as an early enrollee just weeks after Martinez was fired.

Last-second fears crept in, and Hamilton heard plenty of advice that he should back out on his commitment to Georgia and head elsewhere. But Hamilton was a man of his word, and even if the coaching staff would be different, he felt he owed it to Georgia's fans to follow through.

"Wherever you go, it's not going to be handed to you," Hamilton said. "You still have to work hard for your position. So I just felt, I had to be a man of my word to still come here even with what happened. I didn't want to let the Georgia fans down or the coaches and have everybody hate me. That'd be a bad scene."

Once he arrived, Hamilton hit the ground running. He paired up with fellow safety Bacarri Rambo for weight training and offseason conditioning, and he has since been teamed with Rambo as a first-team safety during spring practice.

Hamilton's progress on the field has been nearly as seamless as the manner with which he integrated himself into the locker room, Rambo said. He has been a natural fit.

Hamilton's athleticism and speed have turned heads, and Rambo said Hamilton could easily play corner, too. For now, however, he's working on refining the finer points of safety.

"If he just calms down when he's on the field – he's so ready," Rambo said. "He thinks too much, I told him, you've got to slow the game down. Have fun, and when you have fun, you'll do stuff right."

It's hard to blame Hamilton for being a bit anxious. He knows what he wants the future to be, and he knows what it takes to get there.

"Because of my brother, I saw the life of an NFL player," Hamilton said. "It's way harder than people think it is. You get a big stack of papers filled with plays and you've got to learn them. It's a hard job."

As always, a little hard work doesn't intimidate Hamilton. If anything, it motivates him.

His progress this spring has been strong, and his work ethic has impressed his coaches, but Hamilton knows the starting job still hasn't been won. And with just a few days left to leave a lasting impression with defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos, he's doing his best to finish on a high note. After all, it's been a circuitous route to get there, but Hamilton's finally in a place he's happy to be.

"It's just making me motivated to work even harder and try to get as many reps as I can get," Hamilton said. "When I get out there, give it my all and be the person that stands out. Right now I'm working with the 1s, so I'm just trying to keep that spot."

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