STARKVILLE — Torin Hamilton was not the prototypical high school football player that was destined for the next level as soon as he set foot on Starkville Academy’s campus. He was far too small for such a distinction.
Later in high school career, that finally changed — and, along with it, his plans for college.
Hamilton, now listed at 6-feet-5 and 230 pounds as a senior, signed Thursday to play football for East Mississippi Community College. His coach, Chase Nicholson, saw his game transform with his body to make the opportunity possible.
“He really stood out as a senior. He worked hard to get where he was as a senior, because he didn’t grow until his sophomore, junior year,” Nicholson said. “He didn’t really grow into his body and learn how to operate with it until his senior year.”
In his new body, Hamilton turned in a season worthy of being named The Dispatch’s Small Schools Defensive Player of the Year while leading Starkville Academy to the second round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA playoffs.
Hamilton’s senior year saw him make 124 tackles, 14 for a loss, in 12 games to go with seven sacks and a forced fumble.
It proved Hamilton was close to physically ready for the next level. Nicholson has no doubt Hamilton is mentally ready for it.
“He’s good with technique,” Nicholson said. “Coach Davis has done great things with him in two years. He’s not going to be behind in the technique of it; he’s going to be ahead of other people technique-wise, now he just has to catch up with them physically.”
Nicholson and Hamilton are both confident he will catch up: Nicholson thinks Hamilton isn’t done growing yet, saying he, “hasn’t peaked physically yet,” and there’s still more to learn about his new frame.
“I feel like if I knew everything I needed to know about it,” Hamilton said, “I wouldn’t have this opportunity.
“It’s going to be great. I’m excited I picked this school because it’s going to be upper-level performance and a whole lot tougher than this. I look forward to the experience.”
Hamilton has good timing in arriving at EMCC, as he joins the Lions after they lose a significant group of sophomores from the defensive line. Seven of the team’s defensive lineman from last season were sophomores, one of them being Chauncey Rivers, now with Mississippi State.
Starkville natives aren’t uncommon on EMCC’s roster, with three of them on last year’s team, but all of those came from Starkville High School.
Hamilton was joined in Thursday’s signing by Codie Futral, who signed to play basketball at the same school. Futral and Hamilton are close friends away from their respective sports and have high expectations for each other.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson