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Nobody's Saying Justin Hamilton Is Too Young Any More

There have been some great stories coming out of Virginia Tech after the Hokies claimed a season-opening win over a ranked team.

But the one that makes me smile the most regards defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton.

When he was named to the position, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. From everything I’ve heard from folks in Blacksburg, he’s very good. Great teacher, great communicator, patient, a Hokie through and through. He’s the kind of person you rebuild the foundation of a program with.

But he’s also young, and this was his first coordinator job with a major program. Youth can be both a strength and a weakness in such situations, because on one hand you have the potential for longevity that is a huge bonus in the long run.

But in the short run with an impatient fan base, you are not given a margin of error to make mistakes. Plus, as I learned in the business world, you may think you are ready to run the show, but for most, it takes a little time to get into the proper mindset of running things.

When I finally got a chance to be president of a division, I was surprised during the first weeks that I had to rid myself of the mindset of asking somebody else’s permission when a major decision was to be made. “You don’t ask anyone,” a president of a sister company told me. “It’s all on you. If it works, everyone’s happy and they pay you more. If it doesn’t, they fire you.”

I’m sure Justin had to make similar adjustments at first, but his deal was far worse. He’d learned defense in an atmosphere where he knew the hand he was being dealt, then made adjustments accordingly. With a pandemic going on, his first year at the helm seemed to involve one week after another of not knowing who would be practicing, who would be playing, or if the team would even be playing at all.

When your strength is as a teacher and communicator, it’s hard to get results under those conditions. People in a new system, whether it’s football or sports writing, need to hear it, understand it, try it, and then do it over and over again until it feels more like it’s from instinct instead of memory. When each new week bring new uncertainty, it’s almost impossible to get the results you know in your heart are achievable.

Add in the impatient fan base and when the predictable mental mistakes happen, no one remembers all this. They just conclude it’s because Justin is young, inexperienced and in over his head.

If that were the case, then Friday night it looked like Hamilton has now aged 50 years since last season. They looked like the Hokies of old on defense, and more importantly, played with a confidence that hasn’t been apparent the last few seasons. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit even named Hamilton as one of seven coaches who caught his eye in week 1 play because the Hokie defense looked so good.

Some of that is undoubtedly because there are more healthy, talented players for Hamilton to choose from, but some of it, I believe, also comes from having a healthy understanding of what each player is supposed to do.

I worked for decades in the field of sales, and one unarguable truth you’ll find in selling is if you give a guy 50 products to sell, and he really understands 5 of them, those will be the ones he sells the most of. Human nature is to gravitate toward what you understand the most, and having confidence in that knowledge almost always makes a difference.

The Hokie defense showed that kind of confidence Friday night, which to me was evidence of a defensive coordinator who is a teacher, a coordinator, and a motivator who has the patience to make sure everyone understands the mission. That’s what they say Justin Hamilton is.

After seeing Friday’s results, I don’t know how you could possibly argue against that.

No matter how old he is 😊

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Friday, 17 September 2021
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