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Virginia Tech football: 27 days til kickoff with a look back at Justin Hamilton

Hamilton is now the full-time safeties coach for the Hokies

Virginia Tech v NC State
Justin Hamilton after a win over N.C. State in 2005.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Today is August 4, 2019, which means we are officially just 27 days away from the Virginia Tech Hokies opening the college football season at Boston College. Yesterday, we profiled former Hokie running back Ken Oxendine.

For No. 27, we look back at former Hokie Justin Hamilton, who also happens to be on the current coaching staff.

Hamilton arrived in Blacksburg back in 2001. The 6’3”, 210-pound running back from Clintwood High School in rural Clintwood, Va., looked a lot like Eddie George when watching his high school film. A four-star recruit, Hamilton picked the Hokies over Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Miami. During his high school career, Hamilton rushed for over 5,600 yards and scored over touchdowns.

Hamilton redshirted his first year on campus and first saw action in 2002. The coaches loved Hamilton’s size and with Kevin Jones already on campus, they decided to try him at wide receiver. He played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman, catching five passes for 56 yards and becoming a standout on special teams.

In 2003, Hamilton had more experience at receiver and began to make an impact. He caught 23 passes for 282 yards and a score. He finished second on the team in receiving behind Ernest Wilford, playing in all 13 games, making five starts. He continued making an impact on special teams.

As a junior in 2004, the coaches needed more backfield depth with Jones now in the NFL and after signing a ballyhooed receiving class, they moved Hamilton back to running back. Hamilton again played in every game for the Hokies at both running back and on special teams. He finished fourth on the team in rushing, with 336 yards on 75 attempts, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt and also scored four touchdowns. He also caught six passes that season.

Hamilton finally made it to his senior season in 2005. Coaches always appreciated his hard work and willingness to do whatever it took to help the team. They had an idea to move Hamilton to the defensive side of the ball, at safety. He was more than willing and had a terrific senior season at his new position. Hamilton, in what had become a theme for his career, played in every game, making eight starts. He finished the season with 35 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, picked off three passes which he returned for 60 total yards, broke up four passes and had seven passes defensed.

Hamilton, with his combination of size and athleticism, showed the NFL enough at safety to become a seventh-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2006. As a rookie, Hamilton played in 10 games and made 15 tackles. He was waived by the Browns after an injury. He spent one year out of football before the Washington Redskins signed him in 2008. Hamilton made the team after a strong preseason but was later released once injuries began to pile up for the Redskins.

Hamilton began his coaching career at UVA-Wise in 2011. He became defensive coordinator in 2012. After a stint at UVA-Wise, Hamilton continued his coaching ascent, taking a job at VMI coaching linebackers in 2014. He remained at VMI until returning to Virginia Tech in 2018 in a support role, titled the director of player development—defense. When safeties coach Galen Scott was dismissed for personal reasons, head coach Justin Fuente made Hamilton a member of the full-time staff as safeties coach earlier this year.

Hamilton is a respected young coach who relates well to players and has a bright future. Bud Foster felt Hamilton was ready and recommended him to Fuente for a promotion.

Hamilton’s Virginia Tech career is a bit bittersweet. He played in every game for four years, a terrific accomplishment for a non-quarterback. However, the constant shifting of positions robbed him of a true chance at an NFL career. Had the coaches moved him to the defensive side of the ball earlier in his career, Hamilton could’ve been a much higher selection in the draft.

On the other hand, his willingness to shift positions three different times, shows what type of person and teammate Hamilton was at Virginia Tech. Here’s hoping Hamilton has a long coaching career right here in Blacksburg.