When he arrived on campus in 2012, Rutgers had landed a true gem in Darius Hamilton, who was considered the best recruit in the team’s highest rated recruiting class in school history. He had been ranked as the most sought after prospect in New Jersey since Eugene Monroe in 2005 and he was ranked the #2 strong side defensive lineman in his class. After choosing Rutgers over Miami, Hamilton became the only true freshman in the regular rotation in 2012.
While not a huge force as a pass rusher, from 2012-2014, Hamilton established himself as one of the best overall defensive lineman in the country, recording 11.5 tackles for a loss in 2013. Then came 2015 where he suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss all but one game of the season. Despite the injury, Hamilton’s status as a premiere lineman hasn’t suffered. He was named to the Bednarik Award (given to the nation’s best defensive lineman) Watch List before the start of the 2016 season and the accolades didn’t stop there.
Hamilton was named one of the team captains for the season, becoming the first three-time captain in team history. As could be expected, Hamilton got off to a slow start to the season as he worked his way back into game shape, registering just one tackle in the team’s season-opening 48-14 loss to Washington, but he knew the numbers would come because he felt stronger than he has in the past and was splitting double teams with ease. In the Scarlet Knights 37-28 win over New Mexico, Hamilton showed the form that has helped him become a dominant force along the defensive line with a ten tackle performance.
At that point, Rutgers was 2-1, but the team has been in a downward spiral since then, losing five straight, the most recent being a last second 34-32 loss to Minnesota. Despite the losses, most notably the 78-0 loss to Michigan, Hamilton hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for the game or for the Rutgers football program. He continues to tell everyone that it is a great place to play, with great coaches and that anyone who takes the chance that he took when he committed to them, will be happy with their decision.
During Hamilton’s first three seasons, Rutgers played in three bowl games, winning one. Last year, without him, they went 4-8 and missed out on postseason play. At 2-6 this year, Rutgers would need to win their last four games to become bowl eligible. Even though this appears unlikely with games against Michigan State, Penn State and Maryland, Hamilton has not lost his sense of humor, still campaigning for the group One Direction to get back together because he loves playing their music in the locker room.
As his senior season and college career winds down, Darius’ draft status is a bit unclear. He is projected as the 24th to 26th best player at defensive tackle, but because of his size, most scouts believe he will have to move to end or outside linebacker in the pros. Wherever he ends up, the team that drafts him will be getting a player with a love for the game and a solid NFL pedigree (his father Keith played 11 years for the Giants) which means he could end up being a player eventually labelled a draft day steal.