North Texas Daily

Athlete of the Week: Hamilton runs with heart, purpose

Athlete of the Week: Hamilton runs with heart, purpose

September 29
21:37 2010

By Ben Baby / Senior Staff Writer –

Seated in the family section on the far right side of Fouts Field is the family of junior running back James Hamilton, perched close enough to cheer on their kin.

However, James Roy Hamilton, the junior’s father, is noticeably absent. James Hamilton’s dad passed away in February after a long struggle with diabetes. His father’s death has had a tremendous impact on the running back, fueling him to the best season of his collegiate career.

“He always told me to stay strong and be a man, and be that guy for my family,” James Hamilton said. “That’s the role I’m stepping into for my family. I want to be a man and step into that role for this team, and help us all become men and win some games and do big things.”

Junior running back James Hamilton tormented Florida Atlantic in UNT’s 21-17 victory on Saturday, running for 122 yards on 11 carries to earn Athlete of the Week. (Photo courtesy of UNT athletics)

Turning down offers from Kentucky, Tulsa and Southern Methodist, Hamilton decided to attend UNT instead, where he has proved to be a valuable part of the offense. Known as “Pa-Pa” to some of his teammates because of his perceived “old soul,” the running back is continuously churning to help the Mean Green reach the postseason, something it hasn’t done since 2004.

Hamilton has already done big things this season, leading the Sun Belt Conference with an average of 8.9 yards a carry. The game-winning touchdown last Saturday against Florida Atlantic came via the feet of Hamilton as he scampered for a 32-yard score. The 5-foot, 8-inch wrecking ball crushed the FAU defense, running for 122 yards on 11 carries.

“His toughness sets him apart,” head coach Todd Dodge said. “Looking at him from a size standpoint you would never know it, but he is the toughest guy on our team.”

Coming out of Cedar Hill High School, Hamilton was a quarterback. But after he was recruited, he started his career at UNT as a safety before switching to cornerback. Because of a slew of injuries on the offensive side of the ball, he made the transition to running back last season. He has flourished this year.

“He’s been productive,” Todd Dodge said. “He had a great summer this year, did not last summer. He’s a talented guy, and we’ll continue to utilize that obviously.”

Last season, Hamilton carried the ball a meager 11 times, but still managed to pick up 47 yards and one touchdown. The Cedar Hill standout has not missed a practice or any team activity since January. He attributes his newfound work ethic to the passing of his father.

“He taught me everything I know,” Hamilton said. “Besides that, he brought a lot of things to me and showed me a lot of things I know now. I always think about him every day. There’s always something in my heart that’s telling me that’s what I’m playing for every day.”

Born and raised in Dallas, Hamilton, a sociology major, is the youngest of 10 siblings. Like most athletes, he loves to watch ESPN, but he allows the television to wander onto the Food Channel, picking up cooking tips from Paula Deen and Emeril Lagasse.

Serving in the backup role behind junior running back Lance Dunbar, Hamilton has been feasting on opposing defenses in 2010, racking up 204 rushing yards on a miniscule 23 carries.

After he earns his degree, Hamilton wants to use his education to coach football, a sport he has played since the age of 2. He would like to help support his family, which includes his older brother, Ramon Williams.

One of Williams’ favorite memories of Hamilton and their father came on a vacation to Denver, when the family encountered a herd of deer on the side of the road.

“We got out to feed the deer, and we didn’t have anything,” Williams said. “So J.R., he got out and chopped up some cheese and fed it to the deer and the deer were eating it. So I got out, did the same thing, and I ended up getting kicked in the chest.”

“He’s getting his priorities together,” Williams said. “He tries to take care of things before he needs to take care of it. If he’s passionate about something, he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to achieve that goal.”

Hamilton’s family will return to its regular seats at 6:30 p.m. this Saturday when UNT hosts Louisiana- Lafayette at Fouts Field.

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