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Virginia's Daniel Hamm tries to turn the corner around Virginia Military Institute defensive lineman Justin Smith (91) in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Most walk-ons don't have as many memories from their careers as Daniel Hamm took away from Virginia's 49-0 victory over VMI.
Hamm, a freshman who originally was recruited by UVa as a track athlete, made his college football debut Saturday and carried 21 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
VMI didn't recruit Hamm for football. Nobody did.
"No scholarships," said Hamm, a 2013 graduate of Fort Chiswell. "Being a senior and a first-time running back [in 2013], I knew I wouldn't be recruited that heavy."
The original contact from Virginia was from the track-and-field staff. Hamm, a state-champion triple jumper, was the Roanoke Timesland Athlete of the Year for 2012-2013.
"The track coach from UVa came to one of my games and he said he thought I could play for UVa," Hamm said.
Play football, that is. The track recruiter set up a meeting with UVa assistant Scott Wachenheim, who recruits southwestern Virginia for the Cavaliers, and Hamm was offered a preferred walk-on spot.
"Then, Virginia Tech offered me the same thing," Hamm said. "It was close for a while. My mom went to Tech and it was really tough to choose."
The drive is a few hours' longer "but it was worth it," said Hamm, swarmed by print and television reporters after the game.
Hamm's parents were at the game, as was his sister and one of his brothers. An aunt and a cousin joined them. Many of them are past or present college athletes.
The coaches had indicated to Hamm that he probably would play while Khalek Shepherd and Taquan Mizzell were rehabbing injuries, and Hamm had alerted his family.
"I kind of felt like the coaches trusted me to do what I needed to do," he said, "but, I didn't expect to do this."
Hamm overheard quarterback David Watford tell offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild before the game that Hamm would rush for more than 150 yards.
"I thought that was kind of shaky," said Hamm, who also had an 11-yard reception on which he was tackled at the 1-yard line, "but he was almost right."
Saturday's game also marked the first appearance of the season for LaChaston Smith, another first-year running back who had 10 carries for 47 yards.
Redshirt freshman Kye Morgan, the third of four UVa tailbacks to see action, carried seven times for 12 yards. The Cavaliers had more rushing attempts (63) than VMI had plays (56).
True freshman see action
Smith and Hamm were two of seven UVa true freshmen who played for the first time. The others were offensive tackles Eric Smith and Sadiq Olanrewaju, center Eric Tetlow, outside linebacker Max Valles and defensive tackle Donta Wilkins.
Valles was listed as a starter at outside linebacker ahead of Demeitre Brim but didn't actually start because the Cavaliers opened in a "nickel" package that includes five defensive backs.
Three other true freshmen - Mizzell, fullback Connor Wingo-Reeves and defensive back Tim Harris - had played in previous games.
"We spent some time [in meetings] discussing the opportunities for guys to play," UVa coach Mike London said.
"You don't want to take anything for granted. But with a long season left to play, if they were going to get some game reps and some experience, this was an opportunity that presented itself."
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