Notre Dame safety commit Kyle Hamilton stars at The Opening Finals

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Kyle Hamilton came to The Opening Finals as a three-star recruit. He shouldn’t have to wait long to receive a fourth star.

After competing in Nike’s annual recruiting event for the top high school football players in the country, Hamilton received rave reviews. and he did most of his work with only four fully functioning fingers on his left hand.

The Notre Dame safety commit refused to sit out after his left pinky popped out of place early Monday. He played the entire seven-on-seven tournament on Monday night and Tuesday with the injury. It was bruised, swollen and discolored following a win in the championship game for Team Overdrive.

“It’s just a pinky,” Hamilton said. “It’s bruised, hurts a little and I can’t really move it much, but I played good without it. It’s nothing that a bruised pinky should hold you out of something like this: a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

247Sports named Hamilton as one of two safeties on its “Dream Team” for The Opening Finals. He was credited with three interceptions and five pass breakups during seven-on-seven play.

“He was one of the best players of the entire tournament,” said 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong. “His length and athleticism is what makes him unique. Huge stock up for Kyle Hamilton, who would have been considered raw. You see him evolving as a football player.

“He’s a guy who will have a chance to be an instant impact player at Notre Dame. They’re still upgrading athletically in the secondary. He’s a guy who would be one of Notre Dame’s best athletes right now. He has another year of high school to continue filling out.

“He has some freakish qualities to him. He was really instinctive and around the ball a ton, got his hands on a lot of footballs down here. There weren’t many guys, regardless of position, better than Kyle Hamilton here. He’s a championship-level player at Notre Dame.”

Recruiting services hadn’t been very high on Hamilton previously. Despite him having offers from Notre Dame, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State, both Rivals and 247Sports slated the 6-foot-3, 188-pound recruit as a three-star prospect. 247Sports pegged him as the No. 26 safety and No. 359 overall. Rivals ranked him as the No. 27 safety.

Hamilton, a senior-to-be at Atlanta’s Marist School, outperformed those rankings and even performed better than he thought he would.

“It really showed I’m up there with them,” Hamilton said. “I held my own and did pretty good myself. I set the bar high for me, and I exceeded my expectations.”

That’s all good news for Notre Dame defensive backs coach Terry Joseph. In his first few months on the job, Joseph helped successfully recruit Hamilton and fellow safety Litchfield Ajavon. Hamilton said he texts with Joseph on a daily basis, and he plans to make an official visit to see the Irish play Michigan in the season opener.

Hamilton pitched in with a little recruiting of his own at The Opening Finals. He spent time talking to linebacker Tristan Sinclair, wide receiver Cornelius Johnson and defensive end Aeneas DiCosmo about the Irish.

“Why not Notre Dame?” Hamilton said he asked the other Notre Dame targets. “If you give me a good reason, I’ll accept the reason. It’s one of the best schools in the country, has the most tradition in the country for football programs, it has a great coaching staff and something that I’d really like to be a part of.”

What made Hamilton’s performance at The Opening Finals so surprising was that he’s been labeled as a raw football player. He recorded a 40-yard dash of 4.63 seconds and a vertical of 40 inches at the event, but how would his athletic traits translate to the field?

As a football player from a basketball family — his father, Derrek, trains professional basketball players and his brother, Tyler, plays at the University of Pennsylvania — he’s still learning the nuances of the game. He appears to be adapting pretty smoothly.

“Athletically, the way he moves is different than his peers here,” Wiltfong said. “He’s a space eater. His burst, his ability to find his top-end speed, his ability to change direction and accelerate, and then just to be around the football — it’s an exciting get for Notre Dame.”

Notre Dame safety commit Kyle Hamilton was named one of the top performers at The Opening Finals by 247Sports.
Notre Dame safety commit Kyle Hamilton was named one of the top performers at The Opening Finals by 247Sports.