Notebook: Passionate Kyle Hamilton providing leadership for Notre Dame

Tyler James
ND Insider
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton (14) celebrates an interception during the fourth quarter of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

SOUTH BEND — Kyle Hamilton will likely be a three-and-out player at Notre Dame. 

The junior All-American safety should have a lot of money waiting for him in next year’s NFL Draft if his career trajectory continues on the same path of his first 28 games at Notre Dame. 

Some money even started coming his way after July 1 with the ability to cash in on his name, image and likeness. But it’s been clear in Notre Dame’s first four games that Hamilton’s focus hasn’t completely shifted into monetizing himself and auditioning for the NFL this year. 

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Hamilton has shown an investment in this team and his teammates too. How Hamilton celebrated with his teammates during Saturday’s 41-13 victory over Wisconsin in Chicago served as perfect examples. 

On Monday’s “Inside the Garage” podcast, which is hosted by Hamilton, cornerback Cam Hart, safety KJ Wallace and wide receiver Conor Ratigan, Hamilton shared that he started crying on the sideline after celebrating Hart’s first interception in the second quarter. 

Hart, who is also roommates with the other three podcasts hosts, previously told Hamilton that he might cry when he eventually made his first interception. They shared a special moment amidst the chaos Saturday. 

“I throw my helmet down,” Hamilton said of his sideline reaction after locking eyes with Hart. “I'm knocking over a Gatorade bottle, throwing chairs. I’m saying all this stuff I can’t say on here. Then I hug him, and then I feel myself start to cry a little bit.  

“I’m being completely, 100% serious. I gotta wipe tears out of my eyes. At first, I didn’t think you knew. So you like go walk off and I feel like I’m a proud parent. Seeing you walk off, I’m crying. I’m trying to hide it.  

“Then we get in the locker room and I was like, ‘Bro, I started crying when I was hugging you on the sideline.’ You were like, ‘Yeah, me too.’” 

The No. 9 Irish (4-0) selected Hamilton as one of their seven captains for the season in August. Hamilton and running back Kyren Williams are the only juniors on this year’s captain list. 

That clearly means something to Hamilton, who has shown a passion to match 25 tackles, three interceptions, two pass breakups and two tackles for a loss. 

"He's in a different role this year,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. “He's a captain. So, when you take that ownership, you become so much more invested in not just yourself and what you're doing, but in what others are doing. When you put that 'C' on your shirt, it kind of changes the prism that you're looking through. 

He sees the success of others and feels really good about how he's been leading. He's been doing a great job leading. So if you watch (linebacker Jack) Kiser's touchdown, (Hamilton) is racing into the end zone to get there. That's a mark of a guy that is totally invested in the group.” 

Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton, left, speaks to teammate JD Bertrand (27) during the Notre Dame vs. Purdue NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

The passion Hamilton has shown for his teammates can sometimes be directed at opponents too. On his podcast, Hamilton said he was chirping at Wisconsin’s sideline and fans during Hart’s second interception and Kiser’s pick six in the fourth quarter. 

“I’m running down their sideline after (Hart) got the pick,” Hamilton said. “I’m throwing up their little ‘W’ and then throwing it down. Throwing it to the fans, to the sideline. I’m like, ‘Warm up the bus. Get up out of here.’ That’s not what I was saying, but along the lines of that. A little more vulgar.” 

The Badgers brought a little bit of that on themselves when Hamilton was unnecessarily taken to the ground many yards away from the play during a Notre Dame punt in the fourth quarter prior to the Irish interception spree. A pair of Wisconsin players, including 6-foot-3, 310-pound Gio Paez, went after Hamilton during the play and reportedly stepped on his arm. Hamilton was clearly shaken up after the play with pain in his arm. 

“I look at the ref, and the ref’s looking at me,” Hamilton said on his podcast. “I’m like, ‘I don’t see any yellow. I don’t see a flag. What are you doing?’” 

Kelly agreed. A flag eventually was thrown, but it was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Kelly for showing his displeasure. 

“When two guys take a run at somebody, I guess that's not targeting somebody,” Kelly said Monday. “But if you try to stop somebody from going in the end zone, that's targeting. We just don't have it right yet. Your eyes should tell you what's going on in the game, but sometimes we hide behind the rule book. 

“It just wasn't officiated in the manner that I thought it should have been. So, they thought that because I went three feet out on the field, that I should get a flag for them not officiating it correctly.” 

Sticking up for Hamilton should certainly give Kelly even more respect from his players going into Saturday’s game against No. 7 Cincinnati (3-0) in Notre Dame Stadium (2:30 p.m. EDT on NBC). 

“Shout-out to coach Kelly again,” Hamilton said. “He stood up for me and got a 15-yard penalty unfortunately. But I feel like it was warranted. It goes back to show what kind of guy he is. I really appreciate you."

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Which QBs will be ready to play Saturday? 

The Irish finished the Wisconsin game with sophomore Drew Pyne left as the only healthy quarterback among the team’s top three players on the depth chart. 

Starter Jack Coan injured his ankle in the third quarter and didn’t return to action. Freshman Tyler Buchner was unavailable to play due to right hamstring issue. 

On Monday afternoon, Kelly felt good about Buchner’s chance of playing against Cincinnati on Saturday. He didn’t offer much of an update on Coan yet. 

“The quarterback situation is such that — and I mentioned it after the game — if Jack is healthy, Jack would be our starter,” Kelly said. “But Tyler felt really good (Sunday) at treatment, so he declared himself feeling really good. That's good for us. That allows us to get him back into the mix. 

“We'll see when we get on the field (Tuesday). We're not on the field (Monday), so I really can't give you an assessment of how (Coan) is relative to throwing the football. Tomorrow we'll make a decision on how he feels and how he looks. If he looks good, he'll be our starter and Tyler Buchner will play, like we had before we went into this last game. 

“If he can't, then Drew is ready to go, and it appears that Tyler is going to be in pretty good shape to play for us. So, the two-quarterback situation, it just depends on what two from that standpoint." 

Pyne finished the Wisconsin game completing six of his eight passes, which were his first attempts of the season, for 81 yards and one touchdown. Buchner completed three of his four passes for 78 yards and one touchdown in addition to rushing 10 times for 98 yards in his two games. 

Only 15 players in the FBS have thrown more touchdown passes than Coan, who has nine touchdowns on 77-of-128 passing for 986 yards with two interceptions. 

More availability updates 

• Kelly was hopeful Monday that sophomore left tackle Michael Carmody would be close to 100% this week. Carmody, who replaced an injured Blake Fisher as the starting left tackle, hasn’t played since injuring his right ankle in the Toledo game. 

• Senior running back C’Bo Flemister will be available to play on Saturday for the first time this season. Flemister was announced as unavailable in each of the first four games this season, though Kelly has not provided an explanation for why. Flemister was once again on the sideline for Saturday’s game against Wisconsin and wasn’t dressed in pads. 

• Graduate senior Kurt Hinish remained in the team’s concussion protocol on Monday. Kelly said he’s hopeful he will clear the protocol this week in time to play against Cincinnati.  

Hinish, a captain, broke a streak of 28 straight starts at nose guard when he missed Saturday’s game against Wisconsin. 

Defensive line shows depth 

In the absence of Hinish, junior nose guard Howard Cross III played well in his first career start against Wisconsin. He recorded two tackles including one tackle for a loss. 

Junior Jacob Lacey stepped up as well with two tackles, which included stuffing Wisconsin’s fourth-and-1 attempt in the first quarter for no gain and dropping running back Chez Mellusi again for a one-yard loss in the third quarter. 

The depth on the defensive line showed up elsewhere too. Backup defensive end Justin Ademilola tallied four tackles and backup defensive tackle Rylie Mills added one. 

"We knew what we had with Howard Cross, and he was very difficult to block on Saturday,” Kelly said. “They had an outstanding center and they had to double team him all day, and that freed up Jacob Lacey. Jacob Lacey was difficult to block, and you're playing without arguably one of your best inside guys in Kurt Hinish. 

“Rylie Mills was outstanding. Justin Ademilola was really, really good. Alex Ehrensberger got some playing time. There's a lot of depth there, and they play smart. They play to their traits, and (defensive line coach) Mike Elston does a really good job of keeping those guys ready to play.” 

Prime-time kickoff at Virginia Tech 

Notre Dame will experience Virginia Tech’s pregame tradition of playing Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” for a prime-time kickoff once again. But this time those hoping to watch the game outside of Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., will have to catch the game on the ACC Network. 

The ACC announced Monday that the Oct. 9 matchup between Notre Dame and Virginia Tech will start at 7:30 p.m. EDT and be televised on the ACC Network. 

The ACC Network is not yet available on Comcast, one of the most common television providers in the country. Pushing prime-time games to the ACC Network could provide more leverage for a deal between the network’s owner, Disney and ESPN, and Comcast. 

When the Irish tamed the Hokies in 2018 by a 45-23 margin, the two teams kicked off at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC. 

The 2021 Hokies (3-1) are off this coming weekend following a 21-10 home victory over Richmond on Saturday. 

How to watch Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati

Who: No. 9 Notre Dame (4-0) vs. No. 7 Cincinnati (3-0) 

Kickoff: Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EDT 

Where: Notre Dame Stadium 

TV: NBC 

Radio: WSBT (AM 960), WNSN-FM (101.5) 

Line: Cincinnati by 2 1/2 

Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.