Photographs by Ben Goff
Former Arkansas safety Ken Hamlin, center, receives his UA Hall of Honor plaque from UA athletics director Jeff Long, left, during halftime of a game against TCU on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
FAYETTEVILLE -- Ken Hamlin has lived in the Houston area since he went there to train for the 2003 NFL Draft after starring as a free safety for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Seattle Seahawks picked Hamlin in the draft's second round -- 42nd overall -- and he bought a house in suburban Missouri City, Texas, about 15 miles southwest of Houston.
"I loved the area, and I knew I was going to keep training there," Hamlin said. "So I decided that's where I wanted to make my home."
Hamlin said he and his family -- wife Aja, daughter Avery, 3, and son Kenneth Jr., 2, whose nickname is Deuce -- are fortunate their house wasn't damaged by flooding that resulted from Hurricane Harvey.
"We were blessed not to get flooded at all," said Hamlin, who was inducted into the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Sports Hall of Honor last weekend. "When a levy started filling up, they actually flooded an area that's right beside our neighborhood, but luckily it didn't carry over to where we live."
Hamlin took his family to Dallas when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston.
"It was a big relief when we got back and our home wasn't affected, but then you see the damage that happened to so many people around the area," Hamlin said. "It's just heartbreaking.
"You can't control Mother Nature, but the people of Houston are strong."
Hamlin said he plans to volunteer his time to help in the recovery process.
"I want to do whatever I can, wherever help is needed," he said. "Houston is going to bounce back with everybody helping each other. You're already seeing it happen."
Quinton Caver and Eddie Jackson -- Hamlin's Arkansas teammates who also played in the NFL -- live in Missouri City as well.
"We're like brothers," Hamlin said. "Those guys are family to me. We've stayed close ever since we met in college."
As a starter for the Razorbacks from 2000-2002, Hamlin finished with 381 tackles, which at the time was an Arkansas career record and now ranks third behind Tony Bua's 408 and Jerry Franklin's 382.
Hamlin's tackles are still the most by a Razorback in three seasons. He had nine career interceptions.
With Kenoy Kennedy -- who like Hamlin was a second-round draft pick and played eight seasons in the NFL -- starting at free safety for the Razorbacks as a senior in 1999, Hamlin redshirted before moving into a starting role.
"We really didn't miss a beat with Ken taking over for Kenoy," said Caver, an Arkansas linebacker from 1997-2000. "I noticed early on with Ken that he knew the playbook and had no fear.
"You see that in juniors and seniors, but he had that mentality as a redshirt freshman. I was a senior, but I looked to him to make plays as well.
"He was our quarterback on defense. He knew everyone's assignment as freshman. He made sure everyone lined up in the right spot."
Hamlin became the first freshman to lead the Razorbacks in tackles with 104 in 2000. His 159 tackles in 2002 -- when Arkansas won the SEC West -- are second-best among Razorbacks behind linebacker Wayne Harris' 174 in 1960.
"I was vocal, and I wanted to make sure my play matched whatever I was saying," Hamlin said. "The guys I played with were intense and we were always pushing each other."
Hamlin signed with Arkansas after starring at Frayser High School in Memphis. He also had offers from Alabama, Ole Miss and Kentucky.
Arkansas running backs coach Danny Nutt did a good job as his primary recruiter, Hamlin said, and he was sure about signing with the Razorbacks after talking to Coach Houston Nutt and meeting players such as Kennedy and cornerback David Barrett on his visit.
"I felt at home as soon as I got here," Hamlin said. "There really wasn't any question I was coming to Arkansas."
Houston Nutt said the football film of Hamlin wasn't the highest quality, but watching him play basketball clinched a football scholarship offer.
"I loved the way he moved on the court," Nutt said. "Boy, he could run, change directions so quick and jump out of the gym.
"What really impressed me was the way he was defending man to man, turning from side to side and moving his hips. He was so flexible and so fluid and rangy.
"I loved his long arms and his agility. His footwork was really easy to see on the basketball court. You knew he'd be an excellent guy on the back end of our defense."
Nutt said he liked Hamlin's aggressiveness.
"He had a linebacker's mentality, and you saw that when he played basketball as well," Nutt said. "I don't mind guys that will foul every now and then, and when Ken fouled, he got his money's worth."
Hamlin played in the NFL for Seattle, Dallas, Baltimore and Indianapolis, earning Pro Bowl honors with the Cowboys in 2007. He played in 107 games with 96 starts from 2003-2010 and had 489 tackles and 15 interceptions.
Hamlin is appearing on a pregame show about Arkansas football with former Razorback and NFL running back Felix Jones on Cox Sports Television. The show is filmed in New Orleans, but Hamlin has attended some practices to get a feel for the Razorbacks.
"I'm glad to be back involved with Arkansas football," Hamlin said. "I get to talk about football and the Razorbacks, which I love doing."
Hamlin, 36, said he doesn't miss being an NFL player or regret retiring after the 2010 season.
"If I could just do a walk-through on Saturday and play on Sunday, then I'd do it all day long," he said. "But with everything you've got to do year-around to be able to play at a high level, it was time to let my body rest."
Hamlin got a call last spring from Kevin Trainor, the Arkansas associate athletic director for public relations, about his selection for induction into the UA Sports Hall of Honor.
"I was asking him to say it again, because I wanted to make sure he was saying what I thought I heard," Hamlin said. "It's a big honor and very humbling."
Sports on 09/13/2017
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