Adrian Hamilton's potential pops.
In college, he led the nation with 20 1/2 sacks last year at Prairie View A&M. He's a sack artist with good size (6-foot-3, 257 pounds) and explosion.
But Hamilton had a windy path the NFL, one that finally led to his first regular-season game Sunday against the New York Giants.
After a successful debut, and now with the possibility of the Ravens resting players, Hamilton could get an extended look Sunday in Cincinnati. It could be a debut of sorts for a larger role in the playoffs or more likely next year.
"It's a dream come true to go out there and perform, and to have the coaches trust me this late in the year," Hamilton said.
Hamilton was moved from the practice squad to the active roster last Saturday, the day before facing New York. He had spent all year as the scout team's pass rusher while trying to learn special teams – something he never had done in high school or college. Hamilton was a blue-chip high school prospect who originally signed with Oklahoma State, but he was asked to pay his own way and sit out the first semester of his freshman year. He couldn't do that, so Hamilton instead went to Texas Tech. But in 2008, Hamilton was dismissed from the team for violating team rules, according to then Head Coach Mike Leach. Hamilton disputed that, saying he couldn't afford tuition anymore and had to leave the school.* *Hamilton then enrolled at Dallas Community College, where he didn't play football and instead focused on his academics in hopes of returning to college football. He did so, and was given a scholarship by Prairie View A&M. After breaking out there with his 20 ½ sacks, Hamilton still went undrafted. He signed with the
Cowboys as a rookie free agent and had a good preseason in which he registered a crushing sack and six tackles. But he was cut by Dallas, who had a logjam at linebacker and wanted Hamilton to be more of a special teams contributor. The Ravens scooped Hamilton up and placed him on their practice squad where he could hone his skills as a pass rusher and special teamer. After 16 weeks primarily serving as a scout-team player going against Michael Oher in practice, Hamilton was called up to the 53-man roster.
"It's a testament to hard work and faith," Hamilton said.
"Most people who transfer colleges and went through all the things I went through, they probably wouldn't have made it. They probably wouldn't have kept with it. I was still trying, still fighting, still trying to get inches away from success to wait for that big break."
On his first play in an NFL regular-season game, Hamilton made a tackle on kickoff coverage. He followed that up with another special teams tackle later in the game.
"I guess I'm not that bad," Hamilton said with a laugh. "I'm not as bad on special teams as [Dallas] thought I was."
Head Coach John Harbaugh and Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg were complimentary of Hamilton's debut.
"I said, 'Well, you didn't have to do much for that. Off to a good start, we'll just keep doing that,'" Rosburg said. "It was also a very good start for him. He ran hard, he was physical, and those were the first two things that we needed him to do and he provided that for us."
Harbaugh said the Ravens would like to get Hamilton on the field on defense. That's where Hamilton's intriguing potential lies, and it's how he could make a bigger impact down the road.
"That's why he's here. He's got pass rush potential," Harbaugh said. "He had a bunch of sacks in college, and he's shown that in practice. The way it works basically with these guys, as you know, you develop them all year. Every single practice is an opportunity to develop players, and he's been working really hard, and we hope he's ready."