Defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton took the cue from coach Ryan Day.

It was in the locker room after Ohio State’s season-opening win over Florida Atlantic on Labor Day weekend when Day asked him to lead the team in singing the fight song, “Across the Field.”

 

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More than 100 players and coaches joined in.

Day wanted a senior to conduct the postgame ritual, one that has followed each of the Buckeyes’ eight victories to start this season.

Hamilton, a fifth-year senior, appreciated the gesture.

“It means you earned it, you’re like a leader within the team,” Hamilton said.

The vocal role also carries a touch of irony for a player who has rarely been outspoken.

“He always gets excited on the football field,” said his mother, Sabrina. “But otherwise, he's calm, cool and collected in everyday life. He's always been like that.”

As an infant, Hamilton rarely fussed or cried. He slept through most nights after he turned 3 months old. One of his early youth football coaches nicknamed him “Quiet Storm” as he steamrolled opposing players without saying much of a word. He’s unassuming enough that he’s yet to correct the spelling of his name in the team’s media guide or other publications. (It’s DaVon, not Davon, according to his parents).

Hamilton finds amusement in the role. He laughs before suggesting it’s why Day perhaps asked him to lead the chorus in the first place, nudged a little outside his comfort zone.

“It’s not my cup of tea, really,” he said, “but I’ll do it.”

Much of Hamilton’s career at Ohio State has involved growth, leading up to his first full season as a starter this fall in which he serves as a cog as the nose tackle on a dominant defensive line.

His first career solo sack came in the Buckeyes’ biggest win, a 38-7 beatdown of Wisconsin last Saturday, when Hamilton drove center Tyler Biadasz into the backfield before bringing quarterback Jack Coan to the rain-soaked turf late in the second quarter.

The sequence was so impressive, with Hamilton bull-rushing Biadasz, who is a candidate for the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center, that Day rewound footage of the sack for several viewings while the team was gathered together for their film session.

“He was like, ‘Wow, you’re pretty big,’ ” recalled Hamilton.

Hamilton is listed at 6 feet 4 and 310 pounds, but his impact this season is also owed to his increased speed and strength after winter and summer conditioning workouts. He trimmed 0.4 of a second off his 40-yard dash time.

“I thought he had one of the best offseasons of anybody in the program,” Day said.

His improvement gave the Buckeyes confidence they could replace Dre'Mont Jones, one of their starting defensive tackles last season, who left for the NFL.

“You could see him coming,” Day said.

When Hamilton was in high school at Pickerington Central, it took longer for Ohio State’s coaches to take notice.

It wasn’t until late in his senior season in 2014 before the Buckeyes began seriously recruiting him.

Interest picked up after a local trainer recommended Hamilton to Larry Johnson. Then in his first season as the defensive line coach, Johnson was mining central Ohio for new recruits.

Soon enough, Johnson and then-defensive co-coordinator Luke Fickell met with Hamilton and his parents for breakfast at a Bob Evans restaurant in Pickerington and invited them to attend the upcoming game against Michigan.

Though committed to Kentucky, which had been heavily recruiting Ohio players under new coach Mark Stoops, a Youngstown native, Hamilton flipped to Ohio State in January after a scholarship offer was extended.

It was a thrilling moment in then-coach Urban Meyer’s office. Hamilton pledged to play for his hometown school, though Meyer and Johnson warned him of the challenge. The adjustment to college is never easy.

“In high school, you feel like you've done a lot of things and feel like you've been through a lot of hard situations,” Hamilton said, “but they basically sat me down and told me it wasn't gonna be easy, you’re going to go through a lot of stuff, it’s not going to be a walk in the park. I kind of accepted that.”

Hamilton initially redshirted as a freshman and was largely a reserve until he started three games as a junior.

The coaches were right about the transition. In the earlier seasons, Hamilton said it was difficult at times to explain to people about his role on the team.

“A lot of people put pressure on you since you’re from here,” Hamilton said, “and they wonder why you’re not playing.”

Hamilton participated in several sports growing up, including the bowling team in high school. But football was long his favorite sport, something his parents also recognized at an early age. During one co-ed soccer game, they recalled Hamilton tackling a boy who had been picking on a girl.

“At that point, we probably figured he would be better at football than soccer,” Sabrina said.

They soon signed him up for a tackle football league in Columbus, and he fit right in.

As a senior for the Buckeyes, he’s found his spot too.

“Everybody has their own journey, and I think DaVon’s journey has been awesome for him, because he needed to develop in certain areas, and he has,” Day said. “So if guys just believe in that, believe in the program, believe in getting developed, eventually it'll work for them.

“But it isn't all going to happen at once for some guys. Some guys are a little bit more ready, for whatever that reason is, they play a little bit earlier in their career, but DaVon is a great example of somebody who's developed over time and become a really big-time player.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman