When a coach looks back at his career, it’s always filled with a lot of memories. For someone who has coached for 37 seasons, it’s nearly impossible to pick the most memorable. But for retired football head coach Eric Hamilton, it’s about going back to the beginning.
“I was given the opportunity to be a head coach at a young age and that’s something (I’ll) never forget,” Hamilton said. “I was 23 years old and (Roy Van Ness and former president Clayton Brower) said, ‘Hey, you can be a head coach’ because they knew what I lacked in knowledge, I made up for in passion for the institution.”
Hamilton retired this past July after 37 seasons as the head coac
h of the Lions’ football team. He began his tenure as coach at the young age of 23 and never looked back.
During Hamilton’s time as head coach, the College’s football program enjoyed a great amount of success. Hamilton went 212-144-6 as head coach, compiling 22 winning seasons for the Lions. The team made it to seven combined ECAC and NCAA Division III tournaments. The icing on the cake was Hamilton capturing his 200th win in Oct. 2010, becoming only the 12th NCAA Division III coach in history to do so.
The accomplishments that Hamilton has accrued have not gone unnoticed. In 1980 and 1981, Hamilton was named Coach of the Year by the New Jersey College Football Writers Association. In addition, he was honored as NJAC coach of the year in 1983, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2007.
“Coach Hamilton’s career record is alone impressive, but I believe his impact off the field will stand as his paramount accomplishment,” senior linebacker Nick Bricker said. “He always had the best interest in his players and you always felt like he had your back. Most importantly, he was always willing to go the extra mile for you, a quality that is hard to come by.”
The leadership and connection with his players were two huge factors in Hamilton’s success, and they were largely in part to Hamilton’s football background. He played the sport for the College when it was known as Trenton State College and was the school’s first All-American football player. He graduated in 1975.
“He took a real interest in each of his players both on and off the field,” Bricker said. “He has played an important role in developing me into the man I am today.”
After coaching for 37 years, Hamilton knows he certainly has some adjusting to do, as his life will be much different than it was when he was coaching.
“It’s a mindset,” Hamilton said. “Your body, for all of those years, when August 1 rolls around, you get into preseason camp mode. When you’re a competitor and you’ve done things for so many years, it’s tough to shift gears.”
Despite no longer being the head coach, Hamilton is still extremely supportive and excited for the team as they approach the upcoming season. The impact that Hamilton made on them as a coach will surely help them in the upcoming season.
“We have a great group of student athletes coming back,” Hamilton said. “I’m excited for the players because there are lots of opportunities there. When I told them that I was not returning, I just wanted to make sure the opportunity was there for them to have a great year and have fun.”
With his head coaching career at the College over, Hamilton moves on to a new chapter of his life: a period of reflection. Hamilton has a lot to be proud of and thankful for, but he knows his journey is not over and he is looking forward to where life will lead him next.
“I have to figure out what my next step is,” Hamilton said. “I’m still young, passionate and energetic enough and I think there’s a lot of good things I can do. I just have to take a deep breath, take a step back, and figure what that next step is going to be.”