The winds of change have blown around Dominique Hamilton over the last several months. To hear the former Missouri Tigers defensive lineman tell it, the change hasn't been easy.
After a celebrated career in the Big 12, Hamilton was ready to make the leap to the NFL via the draft, just like hundreds of other hopefuls who aspire to fulfill their football dreams by playing at the highest level. It's a jump he's still waiting to make. After the workouts were over, the interviews were finished and the draft cards were read, Hamilton found himself listed officially as an "undrafted free agent."
We recently spent some time with Hamilton, who is still hopeful and positive about his pro chances, to discuss the changes both personally and with his alma mater.
How weird is it for you to not suit up this fall just yet while you wait for your chance after your career at Mizzou?
Dominique Hamilton: It definitely feels weird. I'm just trying to get on and show that I belong, because I already know that I can play in this league. I have definitely proven that time and time again. They just always hit me with the numbers, a numbers game. They say the same things over and over about the numbers, but they always tell me to be ready.
What exactly do you mean by numbers?
Well they gotta get down to 53 and then you have the practice squad guys. Most teams have their practice squad guys from when they have them in training camp, so of course you're going to give those guys first look. A team might want you but they might not be able to get you. They gotta take care of their needs.
When a team comes in need of a d-tackle, that's when you gotta be ready. They're only going to keep so many on the squad -- maybe four to five and maybe that fifth guy will be on the practice squad. You just never know and this league is crazy. It's just so hard to predict what they're about to do. Most likely you'll be wrong most of the time.
Can you take us back a bit to draft weekend and how that played out for you?
I was mostly mad over draft weekend, because I should have been drafted. Everybody was worried about my ankle, but I was like, 'I just played a whole season on it. Now I just played a whole preseason on it.' They're always worried about something because they're putting an investment in the guy.
While I was watching the draft, the Raiders were hitting me up before the draft and the day of the draft. They built that relationship and I felt like I could go in there and play. They said it was going to be equal opportunity. Then you get there and it's definitely an eye-opener. It's not exactly what was promised.
What do you mean?
Well you think that everyone will be treated equally, but it doesn't work out they way. They give attention to the draft picks. Of course the vets are understandable. Those guys being out there so for long should be treated differently. But with a later round draft pick or a guy who has been there on practice squad, I was hoping to be treated equally in number of reps to a guy.
I took a chance at the Raiders because you know they already have Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, so you're not getting in front of those guys. Those guys are vets and Seymour's been to the Pro Bowl. I think I was more focused on the future and you know those guys will retire after a while. I thought I had a better chance there in the long run.
If I was given the same opportunity as guys that were favored or drafted, things would not have turned out the same.
It's a tight window, too, because a lot of teams hit you up after the draft with an undrafted free agent deal. You have this little tight window of probably 20 to 25 minutes to make that decision to where you want to go.
So you did have other offers on the table?
Yeah, I definitely had other offers on the table after the draft.
So it was really about the d-line situation there above anything else?
They rotate their d-linemen a lot. Their defensive line coach was liking me a lot, so I felt like there would be a fair opportunity there. Then they had a new coaching staff, so I felt like all of the things pointed in the right direction.
What happens for you after the cuts happened? I read about a Seahawks workout.
Yeah, right after the cuts I came back to Denver, which is where I reside right now. Two days later I had a workout with the Seahawks. I killed it; they liked me a lot. I could tell they liked me a lot and I did a great job up there. Then after that workout, I came back to Colorado and I flew to the Giants and I just got back from that yesterday.
So it's just about getting in front of as many teams as you can at this point.
Everybody's telling me good things and there's a lot to come in the future. It's just a numbers game. The Giants have three defensive tackles out and four more on the squad. They have four they kept on the squad because they have three that are out. It's just a numbers game. When those three come back from injury, you know they're not going to keep seven on the squad. That's not going to happen. Somebody is out of a job. That's just the way the NFL works.
Is there a team or two that make the perfect fit for you now that you've been around?
I used to say a 4-3, but I've played a 3-4 now and 4-3. It doesn't even matter. I've gotten a lot of interest from NFL teams, so I've been told if I go one place, they'll make me gain weight for a nose. I've been told that if I go somewhere else, they'll keep me the same. I've also been told they'd make me lose five pounds. So I've heard all of that. It just doesn't matter to me.
Tell me about your morale then at this point.
I think it's just mixed feelings. Right now I am more determined and just want to get onto a squad and show what I can do. I already did that in the preseason with the Raiders. I think if you give me the chance, I will do something. I'm just positive about it. I know I can play in this league and I just need the chance to go out there and do it.
Obviously there's a lot to talk about with Mizzou as well. Is there a part of you that wishes you could have competed in the SEC with these guys?
Heck, yeah. I really wish I could have. I felt like that played a big part in it, too. From an individual standpoint, I feel like if I would have had the stats that I did in the SEC, I would have gotten more attention coming out. Then just being with the team and the guys, you tend the miss the whole atmosphere.
What was your take on the Georgia game?
I thought they were about to win at first. Around halftime I thought, 'These guys can actually do it.' Then they got into the second half and that's when hell just started breaking loose. As long as they win out, they'll be all right. You just can't win a game and then lose a game. They need to work on what they need to improve on and they'll be all right.
As you look back on the amount of experience you had at Missouri, is there a single moment that stands above the rest?
I'd have to say it was finishing off the season right my senior season. We had a lot of ups and downs and our main thing was that we just wanted to go to a bowl game and win that game and finish on a positive note. Just finishing off and enjoying it with the guys and having a good time afterwards and being satisfied with that put it on a pedestal.
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