Lowcountry’s Hamilton, Robinson await NFL’s call

Coastal Carolina tackle Chad Hamilton was an All-Lowcountry player at James Island Charter High School. (Photo provided)

Here’s the scouting report, from a keen observer, on Chad Hamilton:

“He’s just a natural ... really talented in everything he does ... dedicated ... a natural gift ... always gives more than 100 percent.”

That rave review on Hamilton, a former football standout at James Island Charter High School, comes not from an NFL scout — although the 6-2, 292-pound lineman from Coastal Carolina has a good chance to be picked in the NFL draft on Friday or Saturday — but from the principal at Whittemore Park Middle School in Conway.

That’s where Hamilton worked as a sixth-grade math teacher from January until last week, when he resigned to dedicate himself to what looks like will be a pro football career of some duration.

“We felt fortunate to have him for the short time we did,” said principal Judy Beard. “When he finishes playing and he wants to come back, he has a home here at Whittemore Park.”

Hamilton and former St. John’s standout Edmond Robinson, a Newberry graduate, are two Lowcountry products with a real chance of being chosen by an NFL team as the draft enters its second and third days, with rounds two and three on Friday and five through seven on Saturday. If not drafted, they will likely be snapped up quickly as free agents.

Robinson, a 6-3, 245-pound linebacker, has been on the radar screens of NFL scouts for a while. He played in the East-West Shrine Game and was one of only two Division II players invited to the NFL combine.

Hamilton, however, was ready to settle into his teaching career — he graduated from Coastal Carolina with a degree in education in the spring of 2014, and earned his master’s last fall while playing his final season — when he learned that he also was one of 323 players invited to the combine.

“That actually took me by surprise,” said Hamilton, who was a Shrine Bowl pick and All-Lowcountry player at James Island. “I’ve always been my own biggest critic as a football player. I thought I was good, but I didn’t think I was this great player. But when I got the call for the combine, that’s when I realized I had a real chance.”

At 6-2 and 292 pounds, Hamilton was an all-Big South tackle at Coastal Carolina, but the smallest offensive lineman at the NFL combine. His 34-inch long arms, quick feet and agility help him project as a guard or center in the NFL, earning him comparisons to Shelley Smith, a 6-4, 310-pound guard for the Broncos.

Hamilton turned in 40-yard dash times of 4.87 and 4.91 seconds at his pro day at Coastal Carolina in March, and last week paid a visit to the Chicago Bears. He’s also had private workouts with the Texans, Falcons and Eagles.

With a new wife and baby son — Chad Jr. — Hamilton is eager to see how far he can go in pro football. But he also knows he’s always got a home at Whittemore Park Middle School.

“Teaching is the greatest thing in the world to do, the greatest gift,” he said. “To be able not only to teach, but to mentor those kids. They come to you for advice and you are getting them ready for the real world.”

Last week, on Hamilton’s last day as a teacher — for now — he addressed the sixth-graders in an assembly in the auditorium.

“I talked to them about dreams and the NFL,” he said. “A lot of them think they can make it, and it’s good to dream. But I try to tell them that only a small percentage make it, and try to help them grasp that concept.”

Robinson was impressive at the NFL combine, with a vertical jump (37 inches), 40-yard dash (4.61 seconds) and standing broad jump (121 inches) all among the top 10 performances turned in by the 34 linebackers on hand. Like Hamilton, Robinson also has already earned his degree from Newberry after a knee injury during his freshman season gave him an extra year of eligibility.

Since the combine and his pro day at Newberry, Robinson has had eight or nine private workouts for NFL teams.

“He’s done everything a prospective draftee can do,” said John Olson, who coached Robinson at St. John’s and is acting as an advisor for his family. “He’s played in an all-star game, done the combine and pro day, done formal and informal interviews and private workouts.

“The last two weeks, he’s really been focusing on getting into football shape and trying to get physically prepared to go to a rookie camp right after the draft. He’s in really good shape, in good spirits and as calm as you could expect going into this.”