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December 27, 2011

Darius Hamilton: Defensive Player of the Year

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Tom Bergeron is the Senior Editor for RivalsHigh.com. Send ideas, questions or comments to TBergero@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow on Twitter.

By the third play of the game, it became clear.

Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep wasn't just going to beat rival Oradel (N.J.) Bergen Catholic in their state title game, it was going to overpower them. It was going to do so by dominating and destroying the Bergen Catholic offensive line.

And Darius Hamilton was going to lead the way.

Hamilton bull-rushed Bergen quarterback Johnathan Germano for the first of his four sacks, the first of his team's eight. Two plays later, Hamilton and his mates pressured Germano into an interception that led to a quick score.

And just like that, a game some felt would be close became just another conquest. Don Bosco's 42-14 victory at MetLife Stadium became the 46th straight for a school that finished No. 2 in the final RivalsHigh 100.

"It is a great feeling to win it," Hamilton told RivalsHigh afterward. "Here at MetLife, beating those guys, I can't ask for a better ending."

He just got one: Hamilton is the RivalsHigh national Defensive Player of the Year.

Hamilton may just be the perfect prospect on the defensive line.

He has the size (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) to play inside, but the speed to play outside. And as the son of a former NFL lineman (12-year veteran Keith Hamilton) he certainly has the genes.

As the No. 2 defensive end recruit in the Class of 2012, Hamilton can pick his college (he currently names Rutgers, Florida and Cal as his three favorites).

But it wasn't always that way.

Hamilton started at Don Bosco as a big kid with little work ethic. He wasn't the first one in the weight room or the last one to leave.

In fact, he often wasn't even there at all.

The pressure of being the son of an NFL star and playing in a program where your last play -not your last name - determined your spot was difficult.

"When your dad played in the league for so many years, you can't go anywhere without hearing how good your dad was," Hamilton told The Star-Ledger. "It's pressure, and when I was young, I didn't really know how to deal with it. I didn't really start dealing with it until I was a junior. My dad basically told me whether I played football or not, I was always going to be his son. But if it was something I was going to do for the rest of my life I was going to have to start taking it serious."

Once he did, there was no stopping him.

Despite facing double teams on nearly every play, he recorded 18 sacks - a stat even more impressive when you consider Don Bosco played just 11 games.

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell was impressed by effort - and says he hasn't begun to reach his full potential.

"Hamilton dominated games at Bosco even when he didn't show up in the stats sheet as much as you'd expect," he said. "He had 18 sacks from his defensive tackle position weighing only 245 pounds and he pushed the pocket in every game. He was doubled and it didn't matter and he made every one of his teammates around him better."

Farrell feels he'll only get better.

"His technique from his sophomore to senior year is worlds apart," he said. "He used to be effective because he was so athletic, but he didn't use his hands or leverage like he does now. He's not that much bigger or stronger than he was two years ago, but he is faster, more athletic and much, much more dominant because of how smart he is. Once he gets to 285 pounds on the college level, he will be as unstoppable as he is in high school."

It's no wonder he was among the group of initial five-star players in the Class of 2012. And, as the No. 5 overall recruit, one of the highest-rated Jersey prospects ever.

The only question now is where he'll continue his career.

Hamilton, who recently visited Florida and indicated Ohio State and USC may also get some consideration, told Rivals that in-state Rutgers is in the lead. For now.

"It's somewhat like my high school where I come from. It's a tight knit group of people… a family," Hamilton said. "I'm sure it is like that in a lot of places, but the feeling I get from Rutgers is a special feeling. Coach [Greg] Schiano is a great guy, and all the players love him and he respects them."

Hamilton isn't ready to commit just yet though.

"I love Rutgers and they're No. 1, but definitely going to see Florida is making my decision a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be," Hamilton said.

Though not nearly as tough as he made life for offensive linemen.

MORE: Trey Williams named 2011 Offensive Player of the Year

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