If you find it hard to spot Darius Hamilton on the field, take a second look.
After 45 games as No. 91, the fifth-year senior defensive tackle changes to No. 75.
It’s the same number his father, Keith, wore for all 12 of his NFL years with the New York Giants.
“It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time now, actually,” Darius Hamilton said. “I was thinking about doing it coming into this year, but when we got these last six games and coach (Chris Ash) is talking about new season … start fresh and turn things around — I kind of just, heavy on my heart, just asked coach (Ash) if I could make the switch.”
Hamilton said he wanted to surprise his father when his family attends the Homecoming game Saturday against Illinois. Hamilton wore the No. 75 all week in practice.
“I wanted him to be a little surprised,” Hamilton said. “My grandma will be and the rest of the family will be here. I’m sure they’ll take it well.”
Hamilton said his father helped him cope during tough times last year. Hamilton spent last fall on the sidelines for 11 of the 12 games due to a season-ending injury after his lone appearance at Penn State in week three.
“When I got hurt, I had to take a year off,” Hamilton said. “There was a lot of days where I didn’t know if I’d be able to be the same player or what kind of struggles lied ahead. He was just always there for me, always in my corner — let me know everything was going to be all right. So just a way to show my appreciation.”
Hamilton said the relationship with his father is stronger than ever after rocky periods during his upbringing.
“It’s great — it’s great now,” Hamilton said of the relationship with his father. “My dad’s one of my closest friends. And as you guys know, it wasn’t always like that. So we’ve definitely come a long way and I’m definitely looking forward to what’s ahead not only for me and my future, but me and him.”
The number tribute is the latest example of their father-son bond.
“I don’t think any great story is built without adversity,” Hamilton said. “We’ve definitely had our fair share of trial and tribulations, but we’ve managed to get through them and love him to death. Just a token of my appreciation to show him how much it means.”