Just three years ago, wide receiver Karel Hamilton arrived at Samford as a new college student and student-athlete. He says the seniors on that team, which led the program to its first Southern Conference title, served as role models for him that season.
“It was great,” Hamilton said. “I look back on it now and I was just a freshman, but the guys on that team, I still talk to them every single day. It was just a great bond we had. I just love how those older players are like older brothers to me now, and they took us in just like little brothers. I looked up to them and wanted to be like them.”
Now Hamilton is a senior on this year’s team, and he is the one the younger players are looking up to. He says he hopes he can serve as a good role model for the freshmen on this year’s team.
“You always want to be a leader and a big brother,” Hamilton said. “It’s crazy how fast these four years have gone by. I feel like I just got here, but now all of these guys are looking up to me, it’s not me looking up to anybody now. I just need to try to be a great role model to them.
“But they teach me many things too,” Hamilton said. “I learn from them, they learn from me. I teach them, they teach me. It’s a give-and-take kind of relationship. But I definitely want to try to be an older brother to them and try to lead them to the right path and the right way.”
Hamilton got into football at an early age, like most college players. He says friends of his were the main way he learned about the game.
“I moved to Florida when I was seven, and I really didn’t know much about football,” Hamilton said. “But I learned from friends in my neighborhood and at school. I saw a flyer for tryouts and told my mom I wanted to play, and ever since then I’ve loved the sport.”
Hamilton said the support of his parents really helped him as he progressed in the new sport he was learning to love.
“My parents were always there and had my back and they always pushed me harder, even on the days I wanted to quit,” Hamilton said. “I just kept on going and fighting, and I learned how football can teach many things in life. That’s how I grew to love football more and more every day.”
Even when he started playing football, however, Hamilton says wide receiver was not the original position he played.
“In little league I played running back,” Hamilton said. “And then, I was actually playing quarterback my freshman year of high school until they moved me up to varsity and I ended up playing receiver there. Ever since I played receiver on varsity, they just kept me there and I grew as a receiver from that point on.”
Hamilton became a star at Strawberry Crest High School in Valrico, Fla. In high school, he played both offense and defense, seeing time at both wide receiver and safety.
“I loved it,” Hamilton said. “Since little league, I was always taught to hit and hit hard, and that was always one of my favorite things to do. I also like scoring touchdowns, though. I feel like scoring touchdowns is more fun than hitting hard. I played a little bit of safety. Whenever my coach needed me, he’d call on me to play against a star receiver, or anything like that. He’d just call on me to go out there and make the play.”
In high school, Hamilton set a school record with 59 catches for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. On defense, he tallied 21 tackles, one interception and two forced fumbles. After the season, he was named first team all-conference and all-county, and second team all-state in the 6A classification.
When the time came to choose a college, Hamilton had a few choices, but he said the decision was not a tough one to make.
“Samford was my first offer,” Hamilton said. “After Samford came Chattanooga and Coastal Carolina. Those are two good schools in FCS football, but Samford was my first choice. Samford was with me all the way until the end, they were my strongest choice. They ran the type of offense I wanted to play in, so that appealed to me. I made my commitment on my visit, and ever since then, I’ve just loved to play football here.”
In his time at Samford, Hamilton has led the team in receiving in each of his first three seasons. For his career, through five games this season, he has 205 receptions for 2,958 yards and 24 touchdowns. Heading into a game against Western Carolina Saturday on ASN, He is 96 yards from tying the school record of 3,054 career receiving yards by Efrem Hill from 2001-04.
Now in his senior season, Hamilton said his main goals for the season are team oriented.
“Team-wise, you take it day-by-day, but I’d start with winning the SoCon,” Hamilton said. “We came in with a ring, and now we’d like to leave with a ring. And then hopefully God blesses us to make a deep playoff run and reach the national championship. That’s the big goal right there. Everybody wants to win a ring.”