To further conceal a decision he had known for three weeks, Jakar Hamilton woke up Saturday morning and dressed in conservative black and white.
He arrived at Wild Wing Cafe on Washington Road for a ceremony to decide where he would play college football: Georgia or Alabama. With friends, family and onlookers focused on him in one corner of the restaurant, the former Strom Thurmond standout unbuttoned his vest to reveal a University of Georgia tie.
Someone handed him a red baseball cap, which he plopped on his head as a recording of the schools fight song played in the background.
Im not going to let you down, Hamilton said to a pocket of Bulldogs fans, who snapped cell-phone photos of the event and later asked him to sign autographs. You wont get another guy like me.
Hamilton, 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, was an All-America defensive back last year at Georgia Military. He will play one more season at Georgia Military before enrolling in Athens in January and have two seasons of eligibility.
Hamilton played two seasons at Strom Thurmond, scoring 20 touchdowns during the schools 2005 Class AAA championship year. He was hurt for most of 2006, which turned out to be his final season. He took enough credits to graduate from Strom Thurmond the following fall and enrolled at Georgia Military in the winter of 2008.
At Strom Thurmond he was known for his blazing speed, which the schools coaching staff still talks about. The Rebels would line up for sprints after practice, and Hamilton would take off with incredible explosion.
The spot he left behind, you could plant corn, Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer said. Thats explosion and power you dont see every day.
When he left Strom Thurmond, Hamilton was convinced he would matriculate to South Carolina after Georgia Military. But he said the Gamecocks offered him a scholarship this spring more than a week after Georgia and Alabama.
They took time to offer, Hamilton said in an interview earlier in the week. Georgia is a bigger program that puts more players in the league. ... (Georgia) is not too close too home, but not too far away. My family needs to see me play.
Tim Johnson, an Edgefield barber who mentors Hamilton through the area organization Choices LTD, organized Hamiltons announcement at the restaurant. He said he wanted to use Hamilton as an example to at-risk kids in the area.
Hamilton said he told Georgia assistant coach Willie Martinez three weeks ago he would play for the Bulldogs, then kept the decision secret for nearly a month.
He was so happy he wanted to kiss me, Hamilton said, laughing.
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.