When Eddie Hamilton was 18 years old, he participated in his first of two high school football practices. During that first session at Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, Virginia, he had shown the coaching staff all they needed to see in a few swift and lengthy strides. Those attending practice that day weren’t the only ones who were impressed, Hamilton played four years of football at Rowan College in New Jersey and continues to play professionally at age 29.
Even though the 6’4” 265 pound defensive lineman didn’t play high school football until his senior year, he’s far from a stranger to the game. Chesapeake is situated within Hampton Roads: a region in Southeast Virginia that has produced several exceptional athletes.
“All of us, we grew up liking Michael Vick and watching Allen Iverson play football… Everybody that I grew up around, we all loved [football]”, said Hamilton.
Although he had interest in football, Hamilton opted for soccer at a young age and separated himself with his speed.
“It was playing soccer at a young age… it was there I found out I had a motor”
While Hamilton aimed to capitalize on his quickness, personal and family matters prohibited him from playing football his freshman year and he sided with track and field instead.
“We were doing strides on the football field at the end of practice, and I was like, booking it!”
After practice, Eddie’s coaches implored him to join their team at nearby Hampton University’s football recruiting camp. As a 6’3”, 180 pound senior, the Chesapeake native displayed raw athleticism and performed well as a wide receiver and defensive end, despite having received little to no formal coaching the last four years.
“That’s how my story began. My story began as a kid who almost won a trophy for best lineman at the Hampton University camp”
It was decided, Hamilton was going to continue playing football. With almost no high school film to show prospective college coaches, Eddie opted to attend Camden County College in New Jersey with hopes of making a leap four year program.
After two years of junior college, he got his opportunity. While many of his former high school teammates had hung up their cleats for the last time, Eddie was moving on to play college football for Rowan College in South Jersey.
This would be the first time the Western Branch high graduate would endure a full dose of football training camp and preseason. The closest experience he had was on his high school track team, which “was a little bit of a grind, but it was nothing compared to football”, he recalled.
Hamilton described his preseason routine during his freshman and sophomore year “when two-a-days were still legal”: He would get up around four or five o’clock in the morning, practice from 6-9, enjoy a small window of reprieve, then practice again in the afternoon.
Even as classes started in the fall, the program’s intensity remained high. At many Division I and Division II schools, certain courses and professors are hand- picked to accommodate football players’ demanding schedules, “at Rowan it wasn’t like that. So we’d be dog tired, dehydrated, hungry, and sitting there in class…I definitely picked up ways to talk to my professors and be more personable and relatable” Hamilton said.
While Division III athletics are sometimes thought to demand significantly less of a commitment compared to Division I sports, Hamilton vividly remembers “being so tired you gotta pick if you’re gonna eat or sleep”.
The positive aspect of the heavy workload was that Hamilton was able to train and work on his technique in a group setting, something he had little previous experience with. With uncanny athleticism and a burning desire to improve, these four years at Rowan were a chance for him to uncover the extent of his potential. Unfortunately, his development was stunted by constant staff changes: he had four defensive line coaches in four years, making it hard to establish an understanding and productive relationship.
While Hamilton may not have been afforded the coaching he would have hoped for, he still took the field in 27 total games, helping his team be second best in the conference in rush defense his 2019 senior year.
After graduating from Rowan in the spring of 2020, Hamilton knew his athletic clock was far from expired, and he began searching for opportunities to play professional football. Before his rookie year in Kansas with the Salina Liberty of the Champions Indoor Football League, Hamilton competed at the National Scouting Combine in 2020.
“It was a very, very professional environment… Everybody was very animated about the talent they saw”. The defensive lineman specifically remembers various professional coaches encouraging and motivating him during the combine’s events.
In 2021, Hamilton played his first down of professional football.
The Rowan graduate made his debut for Salina and saw in himself an increase in motivation. He would attribute this shift in mindset to “being around professional athletes, [all of them] having different dreams, goals and aspirations for their families”. After his time in Salina, Hamilton bounced to Omaha where he won a CIF Championship, then moved to the Bay Area Panthers.
At 29, Hamilton is focused on getting back to outdoor football and trying to get an opportunity with the XFL, USFL, or CFL. With his girlfriend’s child due in March, Hamilton is going full speed ahead to try and secure a future for himself and his family.