When Tampa Bay selected cornerback Marcus Hamilton in the seventh round of June's Draft, they selected a player that had already finished his undergraduate degree at the Unversity of Virginia before starting his senior season. Having finished his career at UVA with 15 interceptions — the same as current Buc and Cavalier alum Ronde Barber — Hamilton slipped under some radars before the Bucs took him in the latter stages of the draft. Now back home in Virginia for a little rest before training camp, Hamilton gave BucsBlitz.com Editor Matthew Postins a few minutes of his time recently for this Q&A session.
Q: So, being from Virginia, tell me — exactly how big are the Barber brothers (Ronde and Tiki) at Virginia?
A: They're huge. In terms of sports, they're right up there with some of the great University of Virginia athletes of all time. They're a pretty big deal in the university community.
Q:Given that you have being from Virginia in common with Ronde, how has your relationship developed with him so far?
A: It's coming along. He's been there to answer any questions that I've openly wanted to ask. It's been fine.
Q: Did you mention that you tied Barber for third on the all-time interceptions list at Virginia?
A: I didn't mention that to him yet. That hasn't come up in conversation because I haven't mentioned it to him yet.
Q: How much exposure to the Cover 2 did you get at Virginia?
A: A lot, because that was pretty much our base defense for much of the time that I was there. We ran a little zone here and there, but for the most part Cover 2 was our main defense. So I‘ve been exposed to it the last five years in college.
Q: Did that aid your transition to learning the nuances of the Tampa 2?
A: A little bit. In Tampa they run it a little bit different. Some of the things Tampa does are different, and of course the terminology is different. But the overall concepts of the Cover 2 scheme are similar, so I think that has aided in my development a lot.
|(AP Photo/John Russell)|
A: The way the corners play, you might not have to travel as far in certain coverages in Tampa's Cover 2. But the Tampa Cover 2 is much more intricate that the Virginia Cover 2.
Q: Are you going to be a cornerback in this system or a safety?
A: I'm a cornerback, but whatever they want me to play, however I can help the team, that's what I'll go out and do.
Q: I get the impression from many of the vets that they're thrilled to have Raheem Morris back coaching the cornerbacks. What's he been like to work with?
A: It's been great. He's a real player's coach. He can relate to the players a lot, be open and honest with them, which is important and he knows the defense. He was here before, and I think the transition for me at least has been pretty smooth and easy.
Q: Has there been a moment in the last month or two months with Tampa where you've said, ‘Ok, I'm in the NFL now?'
A: When I walk out of that facility every day I see the great teammates that I have. Seeing Ronde and the way he prepares, the way Brian Kelly works there. And Joey Galloway, having to go up against him every day in practice, I guess those would be my moments. I go out there every day and practice against people I used to watch on TV. Now I'm on the field with them. That's probably my welcome to the NFL moment.
Q: Have you had any interaction with Jon Gruden so far, and if so what's that been like?
A: I've had a little interaction with him, and it's been fine. He's a very good coach. He knows football, offense and defense, and any insight that I can get from him would be tremendous.
Q: As far as the practices and the film sessions, can you compare what you've experienced in the NFL with what you experienced in college?
A: The film sessions are different in that at the professional level you're expected to do the work and no one is walking around with you, holding your hand, making sure that you're doing it. You're a professional and you're supposed to get it done on your own. To that effect, it's different (than college). The film study, my last year in college I watched a lot of film and I tried to watch it as if I was a professional already, just watching it and studying it as much as I could. I feel like I'm kind of where I need to be, making strides to where I need to be in the film room.
Q: Speaking of training camp, they always talk about rookie hazing — you know, getting rookies to stand up on a table and sing their college's fight song? Have you devised a plan to try and avoid that, or do you see that as inevitable?
A: I think it's going to be inevitable. I think if the veterans want that to happen, it's going to happen. There's no real way around it. So, I just have to get ready to do what is asked of me.
Q: Do you know the University of Virginia fight song?
A: (Laughing) Not yet. Not yet.
Q: Living in a hotel for a month and a half must drive home how temporary this is. I mean, you're not guaranteed a spot on the roster. You still have a lot of work ahead of you. Does that drive it home? Does it drive you a little bit to say, ‘When I come back to Tampa from training camp, I don't want to live in a hotel anymore, I want to live in an apartment or a small house?
A: It wasn't so much that, that I was just staying there (at the hotel) that drives it home any more. I just know that me, as a competitor, that I need to find a way to make the team. Then I can find a place to stay. I need to think about making the team first. I can't concern myself with whether I'm living in a hotel or not. That wasn't a driving factor to me at all, really.
Q: By my count there are eight cornerbacks on the Tampa Bay roster right now, and they carried five during the regular season last year. With Barber, Brian Kelly and Phillip Buchanon seemingly locks for the roster, it looks like a competition between five players for two spots. How do you like your odds?
A: I just have to go out there and work hard and make plays every day. It's out of my hands. I can't think about that, what my chances are or play the numbers game in my head. I have to go out and do my job. That's all I can take care of. I can't control what else happens after that.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. Included among his more than two dozen writing and editing awards are national awards from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors, and state awards from the Florida Press Club and the Florida Sports Writers Association, for his coverage of the Buccaneers since 2004.