I have recently had the priviledge of talking to NFL players, college players, NFL Draft hopefuls, and high school players. None has impressed quite like Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Ray Hamilton. It’s easy to see why a coaching staff like the one in Iowa City went after this young man in the heart of Ohio State country, and it’s clear from talking to him a while back that he is ecstatic about the opportunity to join forces with Iowa, and fill the shoes left by great tight ends in years past.
I asked Ray, a four star tight end prospect out of Ohio, what the recruiting process was like. As you can imagine, the demand for a player with his size, intangibles, and work ethic was very great.
RH: Well, in my freshman year–I was fortunate enough to start as a freshman. I sat down with my coach, and it maybe was not as quick, but as time progressed I had a ridiculous amount of offers, and I was very humbled by it. When Iowa came in, they were undefeated at the time I think going into the Northwestern game. I met with coach [Ken] O’Keefe (Iowa offensive coordinator) and they were having a heck of a season, and it definitely caught my eye. In the end though, committing to Iowa was not a hard decision to make.
As Ray prepares for the college game, you can imagine that the workouts are different. With Iowa’s strength and conditioning program being among the most prominent in college football for developing players physically, I asked Ray how the process has changed for him in the recent weeks.
RH: I’m doing a pretty intense workout. A very intense workout actually. Iowa sent me the workouts, and there’s a lot to do right now. I work out with the trainers we have here, and I’m in really good shape. I’m ready to take on the Iowa workout program. I’m looking forward to it. There’s not a better strength program in the country, and I just want to be the best player I can be.
The Iowa strength and conditioning program has been painted with a negative brush of late, but it hasn’t seemed to bother the incoming players. Ray said he is no different, but also offered that he didn’t know enough to comment about it. Still, it’s nothing he’s worried about.
RH: I put 110 percent of my trust in the Iowa coaches. Coach Doyle–once I met him I knew how good of a guy he was, and personally I don’t know enough about the situation to comment on it. I am ready to take on any challenge, and it’s not something I’m worried about at all.
Being that Iowa has been a "factory" for tight ends of sorts, I asked the prep star what he thought about that, and how it factored into his decision to become a Hawkeye.
RH: It absolutely was a factor in my decision. Any smart and educated recruit wants to see how each school best utilizes his position, and who offers the best opportunity to get on the field and get to the next level, which I certainly dream of doing someday. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself though, the next step is Iowa, and I’ll be playing special teams first, just working hard to get into the tight end rotation, which is a great group of players.
There are also other great tight ends coming with me in this class, and like you said, a place like Iowa is a tight end factory with a great tradition. I actually spoke to [former Iowa TE and current Kansas City Chiefs TE] Tony Moeaki yesterday, and we talked about carrying the torch. There is no program better than Iowa for tight ends. He told me going there was the best decision he ever made, and I’m convinced it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
Iowa has a great tradition from the fans to the players, and I asked Ray what wearing the Tiger Hawk on his helmet meant to him.
RH: Oh man, I can’t wait to play for Iowa. If there’s another recruit out there that’s more excited than me, I’d like to meet him. I see Kinnick at night, representing the community–Iowa football goes deeper than on the field. It’s such a great tradition with great coaches, players, etc. The whole state of Iowa is behind it.
You go anywhere in the country and you will find some die hard Hawk fans. They want to know every detail all the way down to the individual players from every recruiting class, and that was big for me. I love to embrace the fans, and show them the utmost respect.
Being in the heart of Ohio, Ray was amidst a large population of Buckeyes fans. He offers these words to those who disapprove of his decision to leave the state and play for the Hawkeyes:
RH: I’ve said it before in interviews, and I’ll say it again–If you don’t like it, leave it. I love Iowa. It may be Buck country here, but in this house, all I know is Iowa. Once I did my research, it was not a hard choice. Iowa was my choice 110 percent.
Ray is part of one of the better recruiting classes in recent history for the Hawkeyes, possibly rivaling the class of 2005. I asked Ray if there were any other recruits and future Hawkeyes who stood out to him on his visits or whenever he may have had the chance to meet them this offseason:
RH: On my visit, I got to spend a lot of time with Rodney Coe and John Raymon. Rodney is a very talented football player, and you could tell he was very excited. I kind of knew he was leaning toward Iowa just by the way he was acting. John Raymon is also a great talent, and a hard worker. It was a lot of fun to spend time with those guys.
I also spent time with Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh at an All-Star game, and they are excellent players. Sometimes the linemen get overlooked, but when you look at Iowa, the heart and soul of the team has always been in the trenches. They are great additions to the Iowa program, and I got to watch the bowl game with them in the hotel, and spend a lot of time with them.
Now that Hamilton is a Hawkeye, he will be the recipient of passes from a new starting quarterback. James Vandenberg, an Iowa high school football legend, is expected to take over Ricky Stanzi’s starting spot as the signal caller. I asked Ray if he had the chance to meet "JVB" and what he thinks about catching passes from him in the future:
RH: I got a chance to meet JVB last year, introduce myself, and I got to watch him throw the ball a little bit. If he does win the job, I can’t wait to catch passes from him.
Ray mentioned that he will be starting his career on special teams, which can be an interesting transition for a star high school player. I asked him what he thought that transition would be like, almost starting at the bottom, so to speak:
RH: Wherever the coaches give me an opportunity on the field I am going to work my butt off. With my size, strength, and abilities, I can contribute and I’m going to give a ton of effort. You know, my high school days are over, and I’m gonna make a name for myself at Iowa. There’s always somebody behind you that wants your job, and like my dad says, there’s always someone who is going to be better than you, but nobody can out-work you.
If I use those abilities and I work really hard, get everything right off the field. Everything else will come.
Ray isn’t much for trash talk, and for a high school kid going into college, he actually had some very mature insight on the topic:
RH: We’ll do our talking on the field. I don’t want to get involved in bulletin board material–talk is cheap, so I’ll let our business on the field do the talking.