By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Before he even stepped foot on campus, Darius Hamilton was expected to have an impact as a freshman. That’s just how things go for a five-star recruit who was ranked as high as the fifth best prospect in the country and came to Rutgers as the top recruit in school history.
By mid-August, Hamilton had opened up the eyes of the coaching staff and head coach Kyle Flood tabbed him as a freshman that he felt could contribute this season.
“That was my goal. From day one that was my goal,” Hamilton told SNY.tv “No matter what it was – special teams, offense, defense, anything. I just wanted to contribute.”
And Hamilton did.
One of only three true freshman to see the field this season, Hamilton was the only one to see meaningful action outside of special teams.
His numbers weren’t gaudy – though they seldom are for a defensive tackle – notching 17 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss on the season. Despite that, his first season wasn’t about stats.
“My biggest thing was that I wanted to come in here and help,” Hamilton said. “And I feel like when I was on that field, I gave it all I had and I feel like I was definitely a contributor this year.”
And his teammates agree.
“For him to be able to come in, be productive in certain situations, and he made some big plays. That quarterback sneak against Louisville, fourth and one, he was in on it,” fellow defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. “So he’s definitely made some big plays for us this year and contributed.”
While Hamilton is focused on the bowl game against Virginia Tech, he knows the offseason isn’t far off. And the West Paterson, NJ native already knows what his focus after the bowl game will be.
To be a bigger contributor next year, Hamilton needs to get bigger. Playing at about 245 pounds this season, Hamilton hopes to add 15 to 20 pounds to his 6-foot-4 stature.
And while Hamilton hopes to live up to the mammoth expectations set for him when he was still just in high school, it’s not something that weighs on his mind.
“I try not to worry about what other people say about me. I feel like a lot of people – five star, number five player in the country – they probably came in just expecting me to be lights out, but it’s a process,’’ Hamilton said, adding, “it’s a journey that I feel like I’m on the right path right now and I’m just going to keep pushing.”