The Free Press, Mankato, MN

College Sports

September 24, 2010

Mavs' Hamilton licking his chops

Safety set for Concordia's air attack

MANKATO — Jesse Hamilton’s eyes sparkled, and he cracked a big smile.

Concordia-St. Paul likes to throw the football, and Minnesota State’s junior safety is ready.

“That’s a good thing,” he said. “I like that.”

The Mavericks (3-0) return home today for a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game against Concordia (2-1) at 1 p.m. at Blakeslee Stadium. When Concordia puts the ball in the air, keep an eye out for Hamilton.

“He’s very instinctive; he has a knack for the ball,” Minnesota State coach Todd Hoffner said. “He’s not the greatest technician. You’d never develop a position tape based on how he plays, but he does a lot of special things. It’s not about style points; it’s about getting the job done.”

Hamilton, at 5-foot-8 and 190-pounds, is built more like a battering ram than gazelle. His speed is deceptive, usually about as fast as he needs to go.

Last season, he tied a program record with seven interceptions and was third on the team with 69 tackles, earning all-conference and all-region honors.

Hamilton received some preseason All-America honors and, last week, he was named the Northern Sun’s defensive player of the week. Those awards mean something to him.

“It means I’m working to be better,” he said. “I have to thank my teammates and the coaches for putting me in the right places.”

So far, he’s made 12 tackles with an interception and fumble recovery, which he returned for a touchdown last week. He’s playing in a three-way safety rotation with Troy Jones and Simon Cholometes, though Hoffner said his staff has to be creative in ways to get all three on the field at the same time.

“Jesse’s a feisty competitor, and you get his best every day,” Hoffner said. “He’s not big, but he’s really physical. He’s not afraid of anything or anybody.”

Hamilton is also returning kicks, the first time he’s had the ball in his hands since high school. He’s averaged 28.7 yards on three returns.

“I asked coach for a chance, and he gave it to me,” Hamilton said. “I’m used to hitting everybody, and when you have the ball in your hands, it’s a different feeling.”

The Mavericks’ defense has allowed only 212.7 yards of offense and 7.7 points per game, but Concordia-St. Paul might have the most dangerous offense the veteran squad has faced. Hamilton doesn’t mind seeing receivers come across the middle, eager to introduce himself with his shoulders.

“Everybody on the defense expects a full effort,” Hamilton said. “If someone doesn’t make the play, someone will pick up the slack.

“I think we can (become a top defense) if we keep playing the way we are. Pedal to the metal. Go get it.”

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