Notre Dame signee Kyle Hamilton has star power but not an ego to match

Staff reports
ND Insider

Kyle Hamilton earned a score of 27 out of a possible 36 points on his ACT. Well, that’s what his friends thought.

The safety signee in the 2019 Notre Dame football recruiting class felt compelled to fudge on his actual score, which was 30, once he knew it was higher than most of his friends’ scores. Then again, some of his friends wouldn’t know that he’s a member of Mensa International, an organization comprising high-IQ intellectuals.

Touting his own success never has been on Hamilton’s agenda. But that doesn’t mean his profound humility is a reflection of either his ambition or his accomplishments.

The spotlight increasingly is finding him, making retaining a low profile inescapable.

Hamilton’s performance in Saturday’s All-American Bowl in San Antonio, and the practices leading up to the high school all-star showcase, reinforced 247Sports’ decision in September to elevate him 136 spots to the No. 22 national prospect overall regardless of position. He also got a bump to the nation’s No. 2 senior safety recruit.

He was rated as the No. 66 safety in his class 11 months ago when Notre Dame extended a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder from the Marist School in the Atlanta area.

Sometime after the Jan. 19 Polynesian Bowl, the site will release its updated rankings, expanding its five-star ratings from 19 players to nearly 35. Barring a major change, Hamilton will secure five-star status. Don’t expect him to celebrate the news to the world, though.

“It would definitely be icing on the cake, but I don’t really think it is necessary,” Hamilton said last week before the All-American Bowl. “If it happens, then that would be awesome. But I’m not the kind of guy who is out here trying to play for a fifth star.

“I could (not) care less if they gave me a fifth star or demoted me to a three-star. I would still be the same player I want to be and would play that way until my career is over.”

It took some strong persuasion from Kyle’s brother, Tyler, a 6-4 redshirt junior guard on the University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team, and mom, Jackie to even get him to so much as reveal a new scholarship offer on Twitter. Tyler said it’s because Kyle didn’t want to show up his friends, who had fewer offers.

“I never knew he had a lot of his offers until he posted them,” said Derrek Hamilton, Kyle’s father. “I would find out on Twitter, and I’m his dad.”

Derrek spent 16 years playing professional basketball overseas, which is why his youngest son — Kyle — was born in Crete, Greece’s largest island. The elder Hamilton now trains professional players. The NBA’s Rajon Rondo, Jodie Meeks and Iman Shumpert have been clients.

Derrek took Kyle to the gym, offering his sons similar regimens to that of professional players without the inflated attitude that sometimes comes with it.

“He doesn’t like all the people dancing and boasting,” said Derrek. “That’s not him. I see him not being drawn toward that. I think Notre Dame was a perfect place for him because of things like that.”

A future in football

Derrek was the only immediate family member who never doubted Kyle’s future in football. Jackie and Tyler figured he would develop into a basketball player. Playing hoops was in his blood. And until this past year, Kyle hadn’t filled out his lengthy frame.

Kyle almost quit football before his sophomore year. He did not make the varsity squad as a freshman, while in basketball, Hamilton had done enough to earn a scholarship offer from Tulane. He had been to zero football camps, as most of his summers were spent on the AAU basketball circuit.

“But I actually played that (sophomore) year, and then (Florida Atlantic) and Louisville offered me,” said Hamilton in regard to football. “Then a couple other schools offered me, so I thought I might as well take this football route. I liked football better, too.”

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Clark Lea and defensive backs coach Terry Joseph encouraged Hamilton to finish his senior season playing basketball. ND’s scouting of Hamilton was not limited to the football field, as the Irish staff watched tape of him on the court, too.

Kelly initially saw a football player in a basketball player’s body. Hamilton’s four interceptions, eight pass breakups and two blocked kicks in 2018 were a product of his 40-inch vertical and rebound-like, ball hawking abilities. He flashed the instincts, too, recording 72 tackles.

“We just love his versatility, his no-nonsense approach,” said Kelly on Dec. 19, the day 21 prospects — including Hamilton — signed with Irish during the early signing period.

“He was not a big guy on social media. He was not loving the recruiting process. He was just looking for the right fit. He was looking for academics and football. He sent all the right messages that this was a great fit for us. We loved his film, and we loved the fact that he fit.”

When it came to deciding on his future, Kyle elected to stick with football. Once seeing his son prompt opposing players to quit during peewee football games, Derrek was not surprised by Kyle’s ascension since.

“He enjoyed hurting people,” Hamilton said. “In a football way, not maliciously. He liked the physical (part) of football. He told me, ‘I love football, and I like basketball.’ He told me that at a young age. So I told his high school coach, ‘Don’t worry, he’s going to play football.’ ”

A couple screws loose

More than four years older than Kyle, Tyler always had the size advantage. They designated a stretch of carpet in their living room to play football, with end zones on each edge.

“He had a couple screws loose when he was younger,” Tyler said. “And that might be my fault for always beating him up.

“But he was also devious. Don’t let them paint him like he was an angel. He would hit himself, start screaming, blame me and then I would get in trouble. But all of that stuff added up to the memories I had with him that I appreciate.”

The younger brother isn’t so little anymore. And keeping things subtle should become increasingly more difficult.

“They (the Irish coaches) could break him in slowly, but at the end of the year, I think he could be a starter,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network.

If Hamilton does, his friends likely won’t find out from him.

Kyle Hamilton, one of Notre Dame’s 2019 signees, could secure five-star status on 247Sports in the coming weeks.