Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Open Date Helped Irish, Joseph Close On Hamilton

August 26, 2019
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Open-date weekends are anything but free for college football coaches.
 
If they’re lucky, they might get to knock out their recruiting duties on a Friday night and catch a flight home to their families by Saturday morning.
 
Two years ago, as Terry Joseph hit North Carolina’s lone break amidst a lost season, and coincidentally a mere four weeks after the Tar Heels were shellacked 33-10 by Notre Dame, Joseph had a UNC player encourage some extra work.
 
“Two years ago I was working at North Carolina and we had a bye week. One of my walk-on DBs said, ‘Coach, do you recruit Atlanta?’ I said, ‘Yes,’” Joseph, now the Irish’s defensive pass game coordinator, recalled to reporters at Notre Dame’s recent media day. “He said, ‘Well, if you get a chance, stop by my school. I think they have a player who’s a pretty good player.’
 
“He was describing Kyle.”
 
As in Kyle Hamilton. The kid with 15 interceptions in his first preseason camp with the Irish, who open their 2019 season Sept. 2 at Louisville.
 
Joseph, with previous coaching stops in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC, left nothing to chance.
 
“So I had some time, I stopped by the school and (Marist coach Alan Chadwick) signed off on him,” Joseph said. “Then you see the kid play and move around and you’re like, ‘Oh my God. How can I keep this from the rest of the world?’
 
“In the meantime, the season ended at Carolina and it was a whirlwind and I became the safeties coach here, and he was one of the first people that we reached out to to get an offer to. And throughout the recruiting process, it was like the perfect storm.”
 
Hamilton is perhaps poised to take the nation by storm this season for the Fighting Irish. He’s eliciting more praise from coaches and players alike than any other Notre Dame newcomer.
 
“Kyle has done a great job,” said defensive backs coach and former Irish All-America defensive back Todd Lyght. “The one thing I admire about Kyle being a young player is the ability to learn the defense and react accordingly. He does a really good job of studying, which you don’t see from a lot of younger players.
 
“There was one instance he came out to the practice field for walk-through and he had brought his notebook. I thought it was pretty interesting and I had never seen that before. That lets you know how detailed he is in his preparation. He has a bright future at the University of Notre Dame.”
 
Hamilton’s father, Derrek, a former professional athlete, is relying on Joseph to help maintain a balance.
 
“Terry has taken on like a father figure (role),” Hamilton told IrishSportsDaily.com. “He holds Kyle super accountable, which he needs.
 
“I think that’s the biggest thing, teaching him how not to be a superstar but just be a normal kid.”
 
Little is normal about the 6-foot-4, 210-pound consensus four-star Hamilton. He is praised for his instincts, physical gifts and understanding of the game beyond his rookie status.
 
After spending years riding buses in the minor leagues, the former professional baseball player-turned-football-coach Joseph is the guy charged with keeping Hamilton grounded.
 
“It was a kid who was very level-headed, knew what he wanted and basically at Marist, he went to a little Notre Dame,” Joseph said of Hamilton’s Atlanta-area prep school. “So it was kind of already set up for us. And really he was a kid who kind of stayed strong throughout the process.
 
“Started off as a two- or three-star; ended up as a [near] five-star. But the truth of the matter is, he never really got affected by the process.”
 
Joseph can relate to Hamilton’s handling of fluid situations. He left Tennessee a year before Derek Dooley was fired to join the staff at Nebraska; after spending three seasons on Kevin Sumlin’s Texas A&M staff, Joseph spent the ’17 season at North Carolina before joining the Irish staff.
 
Perhaps most importantly at this point in time, Joseph knows he kept Hamilton’s Irish secret.
 
“He called me about a month before he went public and said that he was, you know, coming to Notre Dame; just to not tell anybody,” Joseph said of Hamilton, the Irish’s highest-rated player in their 2019 class. “So that was the biggest challenge, to not tell anybody.
 
“I had to stay quiet for a month and true to his word, he released it and it was a big get for us.”
 
Hamilton and Joseph just might be proof that open date weekends in college football sometimes can chart the course for a program’s future.

 
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