BEST COLLEGE ATHLETE (2001)
One of the first lessons taught in judo is that a small fighter can use a larger opponent's strength to his own advantage. Well, Big Ten college football isn't exactly judo. And that makes this Gopher senior's impressive record as center all the more striking. At six-foot-five and 283 pounds, Hamilton is practically a runt compared to the defensive linemen trying to run him down on their way to sack the quarterback. Yet the All-American, who has started for the Gophers since he was a freshman, has allowed just one sack since the beginning of his sophomore year--and during that spell he's also had 188 knockdown blocks. He has shared Minnesota's offensive MVP honors, and in 2000 he became the first Gopher ever to be named a finalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award. The secret to his success--coaches, opponents, and fans all call him one of the most dominating players in football--is masterful technique, quick footwork, and a thoughtfulness that overpowers brute strength. And that thoughtfulness reaches beyond the field: Hamilton, a mechanical-engineering major, maintains a 3.25 grade point average. In addition, he's no stranger to personal conviction. Perhaps you recall the stir he caused last fall when he declined to take part in Playboy's preseason All-America team? "I didn't want to give people the wrong idea about my life," Hamilton was quoted as saying at the time. "I didn't want people on campus saying, 'Hey, you're a Christian guy; what are you doing in a magazine like that?' I felt like I was sending a mixed message."