Facing a quarterback injury with the football at midfield just before halftime, Paul Hamilton sent his backup into East Tennessee State’s 1997 game against formidable Georgia Southern. He also sent vanilla advice: Running plays.

“I thought it was best to try and set up a field goal try,” Hamilton recalled.

Jamey Chadwell lobbied for more.

“Coach,” he said, “let me have a shot at it.”

Chadwell quickly completed a pass for a first down. Then he threw for a touchdown.

“I knew right then he was a lot smarter than I was,” Hamilton said.

Chadwell, 36, is still overachieving. Charleston Southern, in his first season as head coach, is 4-0 for the second time in program history. The Buccaneers own road wins over The Citadel, Campbell and Norfolk State.

Hamilton saw it coming.

“I really felt like Jamey would go in there and have a chance to win right off the bat,” Hamilton said. “The reason I felt that way is he’s got a lot of upside in everything he does on and off the field.”

Hamilton knows football, and leadership. He grew up on James Island and was an all-state quarterback at Fort Johnson High School. He is in his seventh season as head coach at Division II Brevard College after serving in the same role at ETSU and Elon.

A ‘positive guy’

Before that, Hamilton was an assistant coach at Air Force from 1990-1996.

“Those Air Force players were special in a lot of ways,” Hamilton said. “And Jamey reminded me of an Academy guy.”

Upon graduation, Chadwell joined Hamilton’s ETSU staff as an assistant coach. He quickly distinguished himself.

“You could tell when he was a player that football was very important to Jamey, not just as a player but the Xs and Os,” Hamilton said. “He wanted to know not just what we were running, but why we were running it. He saw the big picture early on.”

Chadwell went on to serve on Jay Mills’ Charleston Southern staff for five seasons, then was the head coach at North Greenville for three years and Delta State last season.

He is a relentless recruiter, Hamilton said. That’s good, because making the most of a hot start can help enhance the perception of Charleston Southern football (the Bucs were picked fourth among the league’s six teams in the 2013 Big South Conference preseason poll).

“From the first time I got here, all we tried to do was work on the chemistry — playing for each other and being positive,” Chadwell said. “I felt like there was just a negative mentality, and I’m more of a positive guy.”

On to App State

Next up: Saturday in Boone against Appalachian State, upgrading from the FCS level to FBS.

Bucs quarterback Malcolm Dixon has been steady. Defensive end Dylan Black earned national honors for his nine-tackle performance in the 20-12 victory at Norfolk State. Running back Ben Robinson was just named Big South freshman of the week.

“I’m not sure how good we are now,” Chadwell said, “but we have guys who believe in each other, who are looking for positives coming from practice every day. They believe in each other and want to fight for each other.”

By the way, ETSU lost that 1997 game to Georgia Southern. But it was close, 38-30. Chadwell did his part and walked away with a little more confidence.

“Coach Hamilton trusted me,” Chadwell said. “I’ll be forever grateful to Paul, not only for playing for him but for him giving me my start in coaching and getting me on the right path. He cared about you as a person, not just a football player.”

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff