- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Shaun Dion Hamilton is still fresh off his commitment to the University of Alabama, but little did he know he has longed been linked to one of the best to ever put on a Crimson Tide uniform.
The tradition in the Hamilton family is to name the kids after the male. Shelton Hamilton, Shaun’s father, named his first son Shelton ‘D.J.’ Hamilton after himself. When it came time to name Shaun, he used a little inspiration from an article in Sports Illustrated.
The article detailed a high school running back from Boone County High School in Kentucky who had rushed for 3,000 yards as a senior. He was also the SGA president and in the top 10 of his class. To top it off, he was headed to Alabama to play football.
Shelton had no idea that the player in that article, Shaun Alexander, would go on to rush for a school-record 3,565 yards and 41 touchdowns during his four-year career with the Tide.
“I was going to name this kid after Shaun Alexander because I just saw his character,” Shelton said. “I never knew he was going to go to Alabama and become one of the greatest running backs to ever play there.”
Now, 17 years later, Shaun Hamilton is following the same path that Alexander took. He’s committed to play football for Alabama. He’s on track to graduate early and enroll in January. Shelton could have never imagined all this when back his son was born.
“It was a dream,” he said. “I personally grew up an Alabama fan, but I always let Shaun make his own decision. As Shaun got ready to make his decision, he looked at all his options, and he ended up telling me, ‘Dad, I think I’m going to go to Alabama.’ I was like, ‘Are you sure? You know the competition.’
“The greatest thing about Shaun is his confidence. He was like, ‘Dad, I love competition.’”
That’s what separates Shaun from other recruits. Sure, he’s listed as the No. 6 inside linebacker and ranked No. 95 overall in the ESPN 150, but in Shaun’s eyes, he’s the best linebacker in the nation, second to none.
Some might call that arrogance. Others will say it’s just confidence, but if you know Shaun, you know it’s the reason he picked Alabama. It wasn’t because he was named after a former Tide legend. It was because he wanted to play for a winner, and he’s not afraid of the competition that’s already on campus.
“Some guys are scared of competition,” Shaun said. “‘Oh, those guys are stacked.’ At any school, there’s going to be competition. I feel like I’m the best linebacker in the country, and I’m going to have that same mentality when I enroll in January.
“Competition, that’s not going to scare me away from anything.”
It certainly didn’t scare him away when he was a ninth grader at Carver High School. According to head coach Billy Gresham, Shaun didn’t believe in a freshman or JV team. He wanted to be a starting linebacker on the varsity team.
Everybody else on the team looked at him like he was crazy, but four years later, Shaun is the star linebacker on Carver’s defense and one of the top prospects in the state.
“He works so hard,” Gresham said. “I know a lot of people say that, but he works extremely hard at studying the game, at lifting weights, at running. He feels like he’s got a chance to play no matter where he goes.”
As for Shaun’s next stop, the Tide are coming off back-to-back national championships and have reeled in back-to-back No. 1 recruiting classes. Needless to say, there’s no shortage of talent in Tuscaloosa right now.
For Shaun, he’s just ready for the challenge.
“There’s a Shaun Dion Hamilton in every class at Alabama -- 2014, 2013, 2012 and there’s going to be one in 2015,” Shelton said. “He said, ‘Dad, I know that, but I love that challenge.’”