Q&A Part II: Marcus Hamilton

The Bears have three pretty good cornerbacks on the roster in Nathan Vasher, Charles Tillman, and Ricky Manning Jr., but they have expressed interest in Virginia's Marcus Hamilton. In Part II of his exclusive interview with Scout.com's Ed Thompson, Hamilton talks about his academic career, his accomplishments on special teams, and why he feels he'll be a success at the next level.

ET: How did you end up choosing the University of Virginia?

MH: I was going through the whole recruiting process and debating where I wanted to go. And when it came down to it, I prayed on it and I made my decision from there. I wanted to stay close to be near my family so they could watch me play, and the academics at Virginia are second to none. So I knew I'd be getting a great education, and my folks would be able to come watch me play.

ET: You graduated early. Have academics always been a top priority for you?

MH: Definitely. Even throughout high school and especially when I came to college, I knew academics were important. I wanted to take full advantage of having somebody pay for me to go to school, so if they're paying for it at a top university, why not get the most out of it? I was here in the summertime anyway working out, so I figured I'd take some classes and get that going. And if allowed to I could just go on to graduate school, which I was enrolled in before this season ended.

ET: So you've started pursuing your graduate degree?

MH: Right. Well at our school, what we have is professional development where you take a bunch of different classes to get a feel for what you want to do. So they're not all in one field, but they're graduate-level classes.

ET: When scouts come to your Pro Day on March 19th, what is it that you want to make sure they see out on the football field? And what do you want them to know about you personally when you get a chance to talk to them?

MH: Personally, I want them to know that I'm a very high-character guy, intelligent, family-oriented, and a Christian who believes in God and strives and works hard in everything he does in life. And on the field, I'd say just that I have the skill set to play the next level. That I have the hips and the feet that NFL corners need to have, and that I have the speed to play at the next level.

ET: One statistic of yours that really stands out is your 15 interceptions during your college career…

MH: I've been able to be on some pretty good defenses and been privileged to make plays, and the Lord has just blessed me tremendously to be able to grab the amount of interceptions I have. I have pretty good hands, so I like to be able to think that if the ball's in the air, I have a good shot at getting it. And that's just how I've been for the past couple of years.

ET: What type of receiver have you found is the most challenging for you to cover, and what have you learned to help you defend those kinds of guys?

MH: I think the most challenging type of receiver is a smaller, quicker receiver. If you play press coverage and cover-two, you have to get your hands on the receivers. And if they're smaller and quicker, they move around a lot and they don't like being hit. They're trying their best to move out of the way. I'd say those types of guys are tougher to cover. Even the big, tall, stronger guys are not as hard because they don't mind getting jammed. They feel like they can run through it, but once you get your hands on them, the play is eliminated. So I enjoy going against the bigger guys. It's the smaller guys that can create problems sometimes.

ET: What was your mindset when you knew you were going to be playing against Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson? And how did you prepare for that challenge?

MH: I was confident because I had played him as a sophomore and had success, just as I did two years ago when I played him. I kept that in mind and did a lot of film study because he does so many things well that you can't stop everything he does, but you can key in on some of the main points.

ET: How would you describe your tackling technique and tackling skills?

MH: It would vary depending on who I'm going against. If it's a bigger back, sometimes you have to go low on a guy to try and take him down. The big thing is basically getting the tackle, whether it's a pretty tackle or an ugly tackle. As long as the guy gets on the ground, it's a tackle. Other times I'll try and take a shot and give a guy a good hit, but it depends on the situation and what time period it is in the game.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

ET: What are your strengths as a cornerback that should serve you well in the NFL?

MH: I feel like I'm very athletic and I have the cover abilities, but I also sometimes like to take chances and make the quarterback think that a receiver's open. And as the ball is being lofted, get in close to the receiver and get the interception. I've done that a couple of times, especially on our coverage schemes which allow me the flexibility to do that. I think that's a big key - to be able to make the quarterback think somebody's open, and at the last second recover to them and make the play.

ET: What are some of your most memorable plays from your college career?

MH: One of the biggest ones was last year in our bowl game against Minnesota. It was a back-and-forth game, and towards the end of the game, they threw the ball up in the end zone. It was kind of a jump ball situation, and the Lord blessed me to be able to come down with the ball for the win. Also when I go against Calvin Johnson at Georgia Tech, I love competing against him. He's a phenomenal player. I've had some interceptions against Georgia Tech that have been pretty special, as well.

ET: In your game against Miami last year, they scored a touchdown against you, but on the very next possession, you made an interception. Was that out of determination from the touchdown, or are you the type of player that just moves on to the next play when a play doesn't go your way?

MH: I had the mindset that if there is a big play that happens against me, I don't let it get me down because it's going to happen. I don't believe that there's a corner in the NFL or who has played Division I who hasn't gotten beat before. So I keep that mindset that if I go out there playing not to get beat, then bad things can happen. That's how I be aggressive, and it was my mindset that I wanted to go out there and end the game and end my career at Scott Stadium with an interception. It was my goal to get an interception any way possible, and it just so happened on the next series.

ET: In 2003, you led the kickoff coverage unit with 10 tackles. Talk a little bit about your special teams work.

MH: We had a good coach - coach Corwin Brown - and he basically trusted me a lot as the last resort on our kickoff team, which is our safety position. A lot of times the kick returner would squirt through the hole, and I had to be there to make that tackle. Being able to lead the team in those tackles was vital to our team's success, and I feel like him being able to trust me to make those plays went a big way in my career.

ET: That's a lot of pressure early in your college career.

MH: It is because if I miss that tackle it's just the kicker left, and sometimes the kicker doesn't always make that tackle. It was a little bit of pressure, but I enjoyed it and coach made me feel like he put me in the position because I could do it and that was a good lift for me in my career.

ET: You also did a little bit of punt returning, correct?

MH: I did it in my true freshman year, but then I didn't do any more after that.

ET: That position also can create a lot of pressure. What was that experience like?

MH: I enjoyed it because I did that in high school. Coming in [as a] true freshman, that was no big deal to me and I enjoyed it a lot. I wish I had the opportunity to do more of it, but it didn't work out for me to be back there. I enjoyed it. I didn't see it as much pressure maybe because I was too young to think about the pressure of it being a true freshman, but I enjoyed it.

ET: Is there anything else we haven't touched on that you would like to talk about?

MH: Just the notion that I'm a high-character guy with a very talented skill set and that I can play at the next level. It's exciting to go out there having a good time playing football and enjoying it. I'm a playmaker. I have 15 interceptions for my career, and not many people can say that. I think that it's important to note that people may have whatever they have over me perhaps, but the fact that I had 15 interceptions means I get my hands on the ball and take it away from their offense and give it to my offense. And I think that's important for the next level.


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