Explosive QB Joe Hamilton gunning for more glory in '99
Posted: Tuesday August 17, 1999 04:03 PM
ATLANTA (AP) -- For a little guy, Joe Hamilton has sure managed to create a big fuss at Georgia Tech. How big? The Hamilton-led Yellow Jackets have capped the last two seasons with bowl victories, which may be an every-year event at a school like Florida State but has been accomplished only once at Tech in the past four decades.
How big? The Hamilton-led Yellow Jackets, ranked ninth at the conclusion of last season, start this year at No. 11 and can actually mention the words "national title" with a straight face.
How big? The Hamilton-led Yellow Jackets ended a seven-year losing streak against rival Georgia last season with one of three come-from-behind, fourth-quarter victories engineered by this heck of an Engineer.
How big? The school has been mailing out CD-ROMs to media around the country, hoping to ignite a Hamilton for Heisman groundswell by exposing his best plays to a wider audience. Tech also has a special Web site that includes his biography and a promotional video.
"You play all your life to get into a certain position to be one of the best players in college football," Hamilton said. "And now that it's here, you can't turn away from it."
Clearly, Hamilton is near the top of the quarterback class for 1999 after five signal-callers went in the top 12 picks of the NFL draft. He hardly seems built for the part -- his listed height (5-foot-10) and weight (189 pounds) both seem exaggerated -- but he's never let a lack of size stand in his way. In fact, he's downright tired of talking about it.
"I've heard that like two million times," said Hamilton, who passed for 2,166 yards and a school-record 17 touchdowns last season while rushing for 298 yards and four TDs. "I don't see the big issue with the height thing. I really don't."
Though he solved an annoying hitch in his throwing motion a couple of years ago, Hamilton's arm strength still falls short of most quarterbacks in the ACC. He's the total package, able to beat teams with his shifty feet as well as his right arm.
Hamilton is fearless, hurling his body into bigger men as required by an offense that incorporates rollouts, options and play-action schemes.
"You can't approach the game thinking you can get hurt," Hamilton said. "Hopefully, I will get to finish all the games. But there's nothing you can do about it except pray."
Against Virginia, he led the Jackets back from a 21-point deficit in the second half while hobbling on a sprained knee. He suffered a painful hip pointer against Florida State, forcing him out of the game, but he returned the following week to account for 348 total yards in a victory over Maryland.
"Joe's a pretty tough kid," coach George O'Leary said. "He takes a hit and gets up."
Hamilton, who has started at Georgia Tech since his redshirt freshman year, already has accumulated more rushing yards (1,024) that any quarterback in school history. By merely duplicating last year's numbers, he will become the career leader in TD passes and total yards. The record for career passing yards also is within reach.
"I think Joe's a very good football player and we've thrown his name out there for the Heisman," O'Leary said. "But we're not going to change our game plan. The most important thing is that when we win, it means Joe is playing well.
"If that's the case and we can promote him for that award, I think he's very well deserving of it from a standpoint of what he's done for Georgia Tech and what he's done for ACC football."
Hamilton knows the scrutiny could become intense -- especially if the Yellow Jackets somehow win at Florida State on Sept. 11. Last year the teams shared the ACC title, but the Seminoles have defeated Tech seven years in a row by a combined score of 284-54 -- including 34-7 last season.
"I've heard some rumors that it'll get tough -- the media will get all over you," Hamilton said. "But I'm going to go out and do the same things I've done the past few years. Play football and just enjoy playing."
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