The Clemson Insider wanted to find out some more details about how a Christmas Day offer to a priority receiver target came to fruition.
So, we spoke with Hickory Ridge (Harrisburg, N.C.) 2023 four-star WR Christian Hamilton’s position coach, Justin Hagler.
There are few people inside the game of football that know Hamilton better than his wide receivers coach at Hickory Ridge. Hagler also serves as the program’s Junior Varsity head coach and offensive coordinator.
He couldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk about a player that makes him a better coach.
“Me and Christian have built a relationship over the past three years,” Hagler told TCI. “Really, deep down, it’s always been about that Clemson offer, man. I don’t know what it’s been about all the other ones, but this one, he’s been waiting on it, waiting on it. I remember when Coach Grisham came out…I think Christian had scored his second touchdown [of the game] and [Grisham] was over in the corner and he was like ‘Man, give me my O. Give me my O.’
“It’s cool. It’s exciting for him. It’s exciting for his family, for us coaches and the school, for him to finally get that one from Clemson.”
Hagler has spoken with Tyler Grisham briefly and Clemson’s wide receivers coach wants to connect with him after the Tigers participate in Wednesday’s Cheez-It Bowl.
Hickory Ridge held its end-of-year awards banquet on Dec. 10. Hagler was in charge of giving out the team’s Offensive Player of the Year award, which, of course, went to Hamilton.
“What can you say in a few moments in front of parents and players? It just came naturally,” Hagler said. “And what I said was — and I’ll repeat it to you — he’s the ‘epitome of attitude and leadership on-and-off the field. He’s so motivated, so determined to protect his craft. He brings a lot of swag too. He’s always got new gloves on. It’s just the attitude thing. They say in “Remember the Titans,” ‘attitude reflects leadership’ and it comes with it. When No. 7 suits up, man, it’s game on.
“A few things that stand out to me on the field is that he plays all three facets of the game. He plays receiver. He plays a little cornerback for us, as well as kickoff return and punt return. He’s the guy. He’s the go-to when we need a big, big play and when No. 7’s in there, you know you have a great chance of seeing it. On the field, he’s second to none. In the classroom, he’s a great student. He’s respectful. He’s quiet. He’s got a great friend circle too…just seeing him gown since his freshman year has been tremendous.”
Hagler had a funny story to pass along. On Day 1 of Hamilton’s freshman year summer camp, Hagler’s down there calling offensive plays.
“This kid ran a perfect 7 route, man, a post,” he said. “Stuck his foot in the ground, skimmed the cornerback, caught the ball in the air, full stride and took the ball to the house. That was actually the last chance I had to call plays with him on JV because Coach Wilson pulled him right on up to varsity and he performed from that first snap.”
Hamilton scored two touchdowns in the very first game of his freshman year in a comeback victory against a crosstown rival
“Since Day 1, he’s been that guy,” Hagler said. “To see him get faster, smarter and stronger has really been the cherry on top for us coaches. He’s been the guy for us on Fridays. We are excited to see what he’s gonna be able to do his senior year.”
Hamilton is a soft-spoken guy, who holds his cards close to his chest, especially with his recruitment.
“He always has that little extra glimmer in his eye when he’s talking about Clemson,” Hagler said. “He enjoyed his trip. He enjoys the conversations with the coaches. He’s just hungry to get his chance, man. He’s got some great offers on the table from Oregon to Ohio State to Georgia to Carolina and I think this was the cherry on top for him…Clemson was the 29th offer and I think he’s almost most excited about it, to be honest with you.”
Hagler holds the way Clemson goes about its business on the recruiting trail in high regard.
“You can respect an establishment that takes their time and does their due diligence,” he said, “making sure that it’s not a fluke year and he’s consistent. I think that just shows and that’s what Coach Grisham was saying checking on his film again, he was like, ‘How can we not offer this guy?'”
Hamilton ranks as the No. 21 wide receiver, No. 2 prospect in the state of North Carolina and No. 132 overall prospect nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
“I told him, I’d wear any color he wears,” Hagler said. “I’m not a Carolina fan, but if it’s blue, I’ll wear some blue. I’ll definitely wear some orange if it ends up orange. He’s a great kid, man.”