Who Is Hambone?
Sophomore LaDarius Hamilton's Corrigan Roots Developed Him Into Who He Is
DENTON – LaDarius Hamilton is a lot of things. He is a sophomore defensive end for the Mean Green who earned freshman all-conference honors. He is described by others as humble and caring. He is a leader. He is extremely prideful about where he comes from and he is affectionately known as Hambone.
“Hambone is a guy that when he’s off the field is really happy and laid back, but then once he steps on the field and puts the helmet on, a switch turns and he’s a completely different dude,” Hamilton said. “It’s like beauty and the beast. When he’s not in pads, he’s a cool guy, real chill, but when the pads go on, he’s a beast, he’s a monster, he changes.”
Hamilton arrived in Denton last summer from the small Houston-area town of Corrigan, population of 1,587.
“My pride for Corrigan runs deep,” Hamilton says. “I bleed blue even though I wear green now. I’m forever a Bulldog and I love my city. They’ve given me more than I could ever give them, so I’ve got to be the best me for them.” Before he joined the Mean Green, he was a Corrigan-Camden Bulldog, one of just over 20 on the varsity team that shared similar core values found at North Texas: selfless, tough and disciplined.
His success on and off the field has helped Hamilton rise into a role he is comfortable with.
“People from back home say they see me as a sign of hope for the town, Hamilton said. “They say that I’m a great role model for the people who come behind me to show them to do things the right way. There are a lot of people in my town that could have been or should have been, and the people of Corrigan look at me and what I’m actually doing. It’s a sign of hope for the younger generations.
“I take it as motivation because every time something is hard or tough, I think about all the people who are looking up to me and see me as a guy that they want to be like. I’ve got to keep going for my town and my people that are looking up to me. I’ve got to show them the right way to do it to help others get out and make their situations better.”
Hamilton is also focused on improving the situation for his parents, whom he credits for so much of his successes. That’s why he puts in the work to continue to try to perfect his craft. He wants to pay it forward to those who put so much into trying to provide the best for him.
Oddly enough, football was nearly just a pipe dream for Hamilton.
“It’s easy to get in trouble in a smaller town, Hamilton said. “My outlet was playing sports. Growing up I played a lot of sports and baseball was actually my first sport, but then I transitioned to football later. I first started playing football in junior high. I played maybe two seasons as a kid and my mom didn’t really want me to play football because she didn’t want me to get hurt, so she put me in baseball. Then when I got to junior high, I made the choice to play football. I stuck with it and it worked out for the better. My mom supports me in everything I do. She’s come around, and she’s proud of me for what I’ve made of myself.”
Middle school football is also where he picked up his nickname, Hambone. After bloodying his nose while making a tackle, which Hamilton attributes to a bad helmet, he let his coach know he was bleeding. The response was simple, and has stuck with Hamilton ever since. “You’ve got to toughen up if you are going to be a hambone. You can’t be complaining.”
He’s grown up a lot since then.
Hamilton saw a lot of commonalities between Corrigan and his new home. He felt comfortable in Denton because of its feel, and the proximity of everything from the dorms to the athletic center to the cafeteria to the campus felt just right.
He made an immediate impact for the Mean Green as a true freshman on his first play from scrimmage, deflecting a pass that was intercepted by former defensive back Chad Davis.
The 6-foot-3, 250-plus pound Hamilton was then shifted from linebacker to defensive end midway through the year on his way to all-conference freshman honors.
“At first it was a little rough,” he said of the swap. “I was always through high school standing up and playing linebacker, being able to use the space and my elusiveness to get around blockers, and now I’m right there in front of them, so I’ve got to use more technique and more of my hands to get in and fit through gaps or shed the blocker to make a play, so it’s more hand-to-hand combat as opposed to open space where I can hit them with my athleticism.”
Now heading into his second season, Hamilton knows his role at defensive end. He’s also working with a pair of defensive coaches, defensive line coach Marc Yellock and defensive coordinator Troy Reffett, with high expectations.
“Every day they bring the same effort and intensity,” Hamilton said. They expect the best each day, and if they don’t expect the best out of me every day I won’t get better. By them giving me that, I’ve grown that much more as a player.”
In the offseason, Hamilton’s focus was on improving his technique, something he and his coaches see as the next step in his growth. Hamilton pointed to former Mean Green defensive end Jareid Combs as someone who took Hamilton under his wing after the position switch, and helped him understand that to excel at the position, he’d have to improve his technique.
At Corrigan, Hambone had always been bigger, stronger and faster than his opponents, but at the division one level he’s learned it takes much more to succeed.
Hamilton feels that this year’s team is much more physical and attack-minded than that of 2016. He and his teammates kick off the season on Sept. 2 against Lamar from Apogee Stadium.