NHS alumnus adjusts to new position on ULL defensive line
LAFAYETTE, La. — Justin Hamilton remained on the defensive line this season, but a change in roles brought about another productive year for the former Natchez High School standout.
Hamilton, who recently completed his junior season at Louisiana-Lafayette, spent the bulk of his playing time at defensive end after being a nose tackle his first two seasons.
But Hamilton said he embraced his new role, and the production was there: He finished with 25 solo tackles, 13 assists, nine tackles for loss, four sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two quarterback hurries.
“It went well,” Hamilton said. “Coach (Mark Hudspeth) asked me to step up and take on a different role, and I took it as a challenge and tried to adjust, and it worked out good for me and the team this year.”
At left defensive end, Hamilton said his responsibility centered around stopping teams from running past him.
“Controlling that side was my job,” Hamilton said.
The Ragin‘ Cajuns went 9-4 this season, including a 24-21 win in the New Orleans bowl against Tulane Saturday. In the game, Hamilton had a sack and a forced fumble.
“I feel I played a pretty good game, but it could’ve gone better,” Hamilton said. “I gave it my all and did what I could to help the team. We contained the run well and got a little pressure with our pass rush, and our linebackers did a good job of making the right checks.”
The game came down to a 27-yard field goal by Louisiana-Lafayette’s Hunter Stover, who hit the game-winning kick with 9:56 remaining in the game. After that, it was up to the Ragin‘ Cajuns’ defense to keep Tulane from scoring.
“It was pretty tough,” Hamilton said. “We were only up by three and knew we had to keep them away from the end zone. They missed a late field goal, and we knew if they didn’t score, they didn’t win. We kept them out.”
It was the third straight year for Hamilton to play in the New Orleans bowl, but he said he never tires of taking the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“We’re in New Orleans, and we’re surrounded by Cajun fans,” Hamilton said. “We know they’re going to come support you. It’s fun to go out and celebrate with the teammates, coaches and fans. It hasn’t gotten old in the last three years.”
Hamilton said he was only able to make two NHS games this fall, but he was glad to see some familiar faces when he did.
“I like to come home and support my former high school and Coach (Lance) Reed,” Hamilton said. “He did a good job with me there, and it’s good to see former coaches and teammates.”
One of those former coaches is NHS track coach Larry Wesley. Hamilton threw the shot put and discus for the track team in high school, and he said it’s always good to see Wesley again.
“He was a big inspiration with my offseason training, and he makes sure I always stay on top of my running, and it really helps me with football,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton is the son of Clementine Hamilton and the late Michael Hamilton Sr.