Q: Let’s talk about the season. Were you content with how it went?
A: At the end of the day, not winning a state championship and coming away with a loss, that was really disappointing. I expect so much out of Heritage and so much out of my team, and to come out not victorious, it didn’t feel like it should have felt. I feel like the season was a good thing for the younger kids watching the older guys. They can grow from that.
Q: What were some of the highlights for the season?
A: It was awesome to win the district for the third year in a row, because the Seminole District is one of the best districts around. It was awesome winning the Region 3C championship for the third year in a row and having a chance for the state. Personally, one of my best games was [the] John Marshall game; [that] was a good one for me, with three sacks, a few hurries. It was just an all around good season.
Q: What was your favorite moment from the season?
A: Walking out on the field the first time for that Glass game. That was one of the biggest games in Heritage football history. We brought out the city. You looked at one side and all you could see was orange. You looked at the other side and all you saw was blue. And you could just feel the adrenaline. It was there.
Q: You took on such an offensive role this year, but that game was such a defensive battle. What do you like better, the times when you’re relied on offensively or the defensive battles?
A: In the beginning of the year I really thought I’d like running back better. But as the season progressed, defense just grew on me, and I just really love defense. I didn’t mind playing offense, because I’ve gotta do whatever I can for my team. But I would pretty much rather play defense.
Q: You held on to the ball better this year on offense, with only one fumble. What made the difference?
A: It was just the feeling of letting the team down with a fumble and the other team recovering. I really wanted to work on holding the ball and coach [Brad] Bradley really helped me with that, keeping the ball high and tight. And I never put it down.
Q: You guys work pretty hard in the offseason. What’s it like?
A: It’s difficult. It’s tough, especially when it comes around to two-a-days. You go to practice for three hours, get one hour off and then go do the same thing for three more hours. It was hard, but you’ve got to take care of yourself and you’ll get through it.
You play baseball too.
Yeah, [last spring] was the first year I ever played baseball. I played center field, left field and right field. I didn’t expect to be good, but I impressed some of my teammates.
Q: What’s it been like playing with your brothers? (Lani graduated in 2019, Jaleel Hamlett was a junior this year).
A: When they make big plays, it makes you extra excited. You feel more of a rush, because when they do something, you have to make a bigger play so they can’t go home and say, “I did this and you didn’t.”
Q: How did you develop your defensive ability and find that toughness?
A: I feel like playing little league helped a lot, because we always worked on our quickness. And that’s what really helped me out, my quickness. Without my quickness I would have been good, but not as good as I was. Doing drills, preseason stuff, just work in the offseason. [Heritage assistant] coach [Jeremy] Cheshire, the technique he teaches us is perfect.
Q: What’s your first football memory?
A: So, I believe this is the very first time I played. Played for Perrymont [Elementary]. I came out for practice one day and they had already started the season, so they had equipment and they suited us up. And I didn’t start, so I was just a kid on scout team. But then they put me in at running back. My stepdad, he was the coach there. He told me, “Just run straight up the middle.” They gave me the ball, I ran up the middle and just broke, like, four tackles. And everybody’s just shocked. That’s when they started to recognize me.
Q: What are your interests beyond football?
A: I like to play games, such as Fortnite. I like hanging with my friends, talking, just sitting and having serious conversations, deep conversations that last all night long.
Q: About what?
A: About crazy stuff like Area 51. And dinosaur stuff: How do you know dinosaurs could roar? Stuff like that.
Q: What do you want to do in the future?
A: Hopefully play college football. I think that’s gonna work out. And if that doesn’t work out, maybe go into gaming or real estate, something that I love and want to do.
The person or people who have most influenced my life are ...
A: Definitely Coach Bradley. My dad [Antione Hamlett] and my mom [Charisa Hamlett], definitely. And my brothers, they’ve helped me a lot. We always push each other.
Q: What else is interesting about you?
A: I’m very superstitious.
Q: How so?
A: Every time I walk in the locker room, I flick the lights. Every pre-game meal, I have to get four cups of Gatorade and drink them all. And I have to carry them all to the table without spilling it, all in one hand.
Q: Is that just a sports thing, like I have to do this if I’m gonna perform well?
A: I think it is. Like, if you have a good game, you wanna repeat everything you did that day, and then you might have another good game. That’s just the way it is.
Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.