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Not too small for Bucs

Seventh-round slip Hamilton hopes to push QB King

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Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 08:52 PM

  Joe Hamilton was a little disappointed that he wasn't taken until the last round. Scott Halleran/Allsport

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- First Shaun King. Now Joe Hamilton.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't big on so-called measurables -- things like height, weight and speed -- when it comes to quarterbacks. That is, unless you're talking about production and victories.

The NFC Central champions drafted the 6-foot King in the second round last year, despite what some scouts felt were some physical limitations. They added the 5-10 Hamilton to the team Sunday, despite similar perceptions about the former Georgia Tech star.

"A lot of people look at different things. And being 5-10, there's not necessarily a prototype for that type of quarterback to be successful in the NFL," coach Tony Dungy said after selecting Hamilton in the seventh round -- No. 234 overall.

"But I think you have to look at more than that -- you've got to look at special qualities and what a guy does. Obviously, the most important thing to do as a quarterback is win. And just as Shaun did in his college career, Joe won an awful lot. There's something to be said for that."

Hamilton, runner-up to Ron Dayne in balloting for the Heisman Trophy last season, was the 12th of 13 quarterbacks taken over two days. Despite leaving Georgia Tech with school and Atlantic Coast Conference records for total offense (10,640 yards) and touchdowns (83, including 65 TD passes), he couldn't shake questions about size and suitability for the pro passing game.

"I'm a little disappointed. But to be honest with you, I understand. I understand that this is a business, and that's the way things go," Hamilton said by telephone from his home in Alvin, S.C.

"I said after the last game of my career at Georgia Tech, the [scouting] combine and all the workouts: 'I did all I could do. I can't do any more.' ... I really started to feel bad when I saw some quarterbacks that I thought I was better than go ahead of me."

But within an hour after Tampa Bay selected him, Hamilton was ready to put the draft behind him. He's looking forward to this weekend's mini-camp for draft picks and veterans, as well as beyond.

King took over as the Bucs starter late last season and led the team to a playoff berth and its first apperance in the NFC championship game in 20 years. Eric Zeier is his backup, but Hamilton plans to make his mark, too.

"I'm going to be a guy with a lot of focus, a guy who's going to grab the playbook and study it every chance I get. A guy who's going to be prepared to try to compete for a starting job," he said.

"Shaun King is a great quarterback, and he has the job. But I'd be a non-competitor if I said I don't want to go in there and at least push him so he plays to a new level and leads our team to a Super Bowl berth."

Hamilton helped Georgia Tech to an 18-5 record over his last 23 games, including a share of the 1998 ACC championship. He was second in the nation in passing efficiency last year, leading the entire season until he was overtaken by Virginia Tech's Michael Vick in the final week.

Dungy, who at just under 6 feet was a successful college quarterback who didn't get a chance to play the position in the NFL in the late 1970s, laughed when asked if he was becoming a champion for undersized quarterbacks.

"I guess maybe I am. Maybe there's a subliminal message in there," he said.

"Sometimes, I just think we put too much emphasis on the measurables. ... I think the players who are good players in college have a chance to be good players in professional football. Very seldom does a guy who's not a good player in college come on just because he's got measurables and all of a sudden become a good pro.

"We tend to look for the production," the coach said.

And what the Bucs especially liked about Hamilton's statistics is that some of his biggest numbers were posted against the stiffest competition.

"It seems like the bigger the game, the better he played," said Dungy, who used the other picks the Bucs had Sunday to select Kentucky tight end James Whalen in the fifth round and USC safety David Gibson in the sixth.

"He went to a place that wasn't stocked with powerhouse players. He competed against some of the best teams in the country and won a lot of games. ... And what the coaches at Georgia Tech tell you is he's a guy who instilled a lot of confidence in his teammates. No matter who they were playing, or what the situation was in a game, they felt like they had a chance because of him."

That makes him Dungy's kind of guy, too.

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