It was nothing for CorMontae Hamilton to flash high-level flashes during middle school football practice in South Memphis, Mississippi’s state line just miles away.
There, on a field shared with Tennessee powerhouse Whitehaven, coach Rodney Saulsberry learned early the skills of Hamilton, who already possessed a larger frame.
“Honestly, that began in middle school — one of my coaches is the head coach of a feeder school,” Saulsberry told Lettermen Row. “They would practice on our field, same time as we did. I’d get a chance to see middle school kids on a daily basis. Seeing him as a seventh- and eighth-grader, I could tell he had the opportunity to be really special.
“He was one that could easily have done it [practice up with the varsity]. As an eighth-grader, you could just tell with his size.”
What didn’t come as easily this past season, but impressed Saulsberry no less, was Hamilton’s intangible growth into a team captain and leader. The roughly 6-foot-3, 260-pound Hamilton, who signed with the Buckeyes in December and remained as part of Ryan Day’s foundational class, helped guide the Tigers to a Class 6A runner-up finish in his final season.
“One thing is growing as a leader, and that’s one of the biggest things is that he was not a big talker coming into this process,” said Saulsberry, who in 15 years atop the Whitehaven program has had almost 200 players sign college scholarships. “He would always do the right things, but as he matured and became a captain, he became more vocal.
“He turned guys the right way when they were going the wrong way.”
Hamilton turned defensive matchups into nightmares for opponents as Hamilton steadily evolved his game with the Tigers. Saulsberry, with a chuckle, attempted to offer a scouting report on his former star pupil.
The positives came easily.
“The biggest thing is just his hands, I mean he routinely made one-handed catches in traffic that just made you go, ‘Wow!’” he said. “At a Rivals Camp last year, he had a one-handed catch across the middle that went viral online.
“Even as a freshman, he had a one-handed catch in a game. He would do that in practice and games. He has very large hands, uses them well. Has a big catch radius; his target area is just so large because of his length. The biggest strength is he is a hard worker and he will catch the football. If it’s in his area, he’s going to get it because he positions his body so well.”
Saulsberry further explained Hamilton’s ability to be his quarterback’s best friend.
“As a coach, the defense’s eyes would have to stay on him. For the quarterback, he’s always a good safety net,” Saulsberry said. “He presents well when he runs routes.”
Though Hamilton’s “Greyhound to Columbus” tale nearly is rote at this point, Saulsberry stills points to the tale of determination from his standout as evidence of the player the Buckeyes are welcoming into the program.
“I was just amazed that he took that initiative, since we had had just returned from a tour that stops at Clemson, Tennessee, Georgia, Vanderbilt, all those different schools,” Saulsberry said. “Hats off to Kevin Wilson, too, because he stuck with him and kept recruiting him as one of the top tight ends in the country.”