When Shaun Hamilton was growing up in the Capital City, he dreamed of the day he could become a professional athlete.
What many people don’t know about the five-star football recruit from those days, however, is that his favorite sport was baseball.
“I always think about it,” Hamilton said Monday as he prepared for the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic at Cramton Bowl on Saturday. “My brother was friends with Reggie Golden, who played at Wetumpka and went on and got drafted in the MLB (draft). I always looked up to him. I think I would have had a great baseball career and would have had the chance to get drafted. God works things (in certain ways) for certain people.”
The way this story worked out, Hamilton had to give up baseball after an injury in the eighth grade. Instead of turning his focus to baseball, he concentrated on football instead, dropping out of the magnet program to play at a school that offered football. After a standout career at G.W. Carver, he was rewarded with a scholarship to play football at the University of Alabama, where he will enroll for spring semester in less than a month.
“I had real big potential in baseball,” Hamilton said. “My mom is an academic-crazy person. She doesn’t care about any of these scholarship offers I’ve gotten. All she wants to know about is the academic standpoint. I was in the magnet program K through 8, went to Forest Avenue K through 5 and Baldwin 6-8. I played sports at Brewbaker because Baldwin didn’t have any sports programs.
“At Brewbaker in the eighth grade, I was going to be the starting quarterback, and I had a labrum tear and had to have reconstructive surgery. That just ended all the baseball dreams. My shoulder wasn’t the same, so I just gave it up and said I wanted to try and play linebacker.”
Growing up, he didn’t have to make a choice. He excelled in all three sports, playing basketball at the Bell Road YMCA and baseball in the AUM summer league where he made all-star teams “year in, year out.” Football, of course, was another option as his older brother D.J. Hamilton, now at Morehouse College, had starred at Jeff Davis.
Hamilton, though, was a natural on the diamond, playing shortstop, pitcher and catcher in the Dixie Baseball program at AUM.
“I have little cousins who play youth baseball out there so it’s a good thing to go out there and see my old stomping grounds and remember when I used to hit home runs and hit balls to the fence,” he said. “I miss it, knowing that a lot of my friends that went to middle school or elementary school are doing it. I love reading about them in the paper, seeing they’re doing this and that for their baseball team.”
The torn labrum, however, ended that dream. And changing dreams from baseball to football had its own built-in obstacle, since Hamilton was an excellent magnet school student and playing high school football meant dropping out of the magnet program.
“It was big (convincing his mother),” Hamilton said. “It wasn’t just me. My dad (Shelton), we did a great job influencing her. I know she really wanted to press me to stay in the magnet program but she was like, ‘This is your life, I’m going to support you in whatever.'”
Diane Hamilton, an ardent supporter of the magnet program through the parent-teacher association, finally gave her consent.
“We got to BTW and were trying to see if we could work out something where the kids could stay in the magnet program, go to their zoned school or go to the schools that play those sports,” she said. “It was continuous, continuous, continuous. Later, they explained how once the kids got to high school, they were not into the sports (at magnet schools) as much and football was a very expensive program. We talked about it, we prayed about it and I said, ‘Shaun, we’re going to let you do that’ because he’s been playing since he was five.
“As far as the magnet program, his organizational skills, everything just set up for him. It’s been a blessing. He coped real well with it.”
Hamilton will graduate this month from Carver as the valedictorian at the school after earning selection to the Alabama-Mississippi game as one of the top players in the state. He realized his dreams even after changing sports, pointing out that Golden gave up all other sports to concentrate on baseball to achieve his dream.
“Just seeing that, you know it can be done,” he said. “If you get just concentrate on one sport, you can definitely excel. That was one of the main reasons I stopped playing basketball and baseball because I knew my future was going to be better in football. After the labrum tear, that’s when I concentrated on football.
“Year in, year out, when all of my other friends were tying on their basketball shoes, all I did was work, work, work.”
Hamilton said it’s “bittersweet, hard to believe” that his high school days are numbered, and on Jan. 7, he’ll be enrolled at Alabama, beginning life as a Crimson Tide freshman.
“It’s going to be crazy going to, in my opinion, the best college football program,” he said. “It’s going to be a great experience, working out with the team, academically and everything.
“Dee Milliner, he and I are good friends. I remember early on, when he started getting recruited, he mentioned he was graduating early. Not even knowing I was going to Alabama, in the 10th grade, I told my dad I want to graduate early to be like Dee — seeing that it paid off for him in starting games as a (Crimson Tide) freshman, and now he’s in the NFL. Everybody who does that usually plays a lot and has a successful career.”