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Mr. Brad Hamilton
Home Phone: 337-406-8606
Hamilton still happy he was transplanted
By BRUCE BROWN, Sports Editor, Daily Advertiser (1989).
You wouldn’t think Waukesha, Wisconsin would be within the normal recruiting range of USLs football program in the 1960’s, not when the team was called the Ragin’ Cajuns and the roster was populated by names like LaFleur and Hebert.
But that’s where the Cajuns found Brad Hamilton, who would become one of the more decorated linemen in the school’s program en route to an engineering degree and a home on the bayou.
Waukesha Coach Joe Blanco sent Hamilton and a teammate down South so his brother Raymond, then a USL assistant, could look them over. The recruiting trip included an eye-opening nighttime tour of New Orleans, and although the teammate chose Boston College, Hamilton selected USL as his collegiate home away from home.
That was 1963, and 26 years later Hamilton has no regrets about that decision. Now an engineer for C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates, Hamilton and his wife Mary K. find their lives revolving around daughter Kristi, a St. Thomas More freshman, and son Gregg, a seventh grader at Fatima.
“I like to coach kids in all sports up to about 15-16 years of age,” said Hamilton, who moved back to Lafayette to join Fenstermaker in 1974 after joining Texas Instruments out of college.
Kristi, who was her father’s slow-pitch softball student years ago, is leaning toward track at STM along with many non-sports interests, while Gregg is into football and soccer. And, even though he is a civil engineer like his father was, Hamilton is open to whatever sport his son wants to attack.
“Football has a mystique down here.” said Hamilton, ï¿½and Gregg played this year at Fatima. But he also enjoys soccer, and it’s a great sport.ï¿½
One thing Hamilton would like Gregg to pursue is Boy Scouts.
“I was an Eagle scout,” he recalled, “and some of my most fun moments growing up came in scouting. Being involved with scouting has given me a good excuse to get out and do things, and it has got the whole family into camping.ï¿½
Obviously, Hamilton is the kind of individual who loves staying involved with those things that have helped shape his life, such as athletics and scouting. It’s an equation that is repeated in his ongoing involvement with and support of USL. “I served as ‘S’ Club president for five or six years,” said Hamilton, ï¿½and I’ve been on the Alumni Association Board of Directors. I was a member of two search committees, one that brought Tee Joe (Joseph Savoy) in to head the alumni and another that picked Terry Don Phillips as athletic director.”
Hamilton noted that the growth of USL to major college status began one step before Phillips with Mel Didier.
“Mel brought in a big-league approach to the athletic department,” said Hamilton. “He pointed us in the right direction.
“Terry Don’s strength was in his network of contacts in college athletics. He knew who to call, and that’s how he improved our schedules. He was also strong on fund-raising.”
So USL got more than it bargained for when it signed Hamilton back in 1963. What he got was a college education and some vivid memories.
There was “Black Friday”, an infamous day in 1963 when Head Coach Russ Faulkinberry decided to see how many of his charges really wanted to play for the Cajuns. USL had been drilled 45-6 at Louisiana Tech the previous weekend, and that Friday was a day of judgment.
“Because of injuries or some reason I had played a lot in that game,” said Hamilton, “so I was right up there for heavy punishment with the starters.”
The Cajuns nipped Louisiana College7-6 the next day, but of the 45 or so freshmen on the squad with Hamilton, only eight or nine stuck it out for the full four years.
Hamilton made All-Gulf Slates Conference as a tackle his sophomore year and was a two-way AlI-GSC pick at guard and defensive tackle as a junior when USL shared the league crown with McNeese.
He even scored on a tackle-eligible pass against Tampa.
Then Hamilton, who was named Academic All-America as a junior, saw a knee injury blunt his senior season. Still, the college experience was positive.
“I wouldn’t change anything”, said Hamilton, who used a fifth year on scholarship to finish his degree and work as a graduate assistant on the Faulkinberry staff in 1967-68.
“If you apply yourself,” he said, you can have as much fun as anyone else and still learn as much. You just have to budget your time.
ï¿½In some fields, it’s possible to finish in four years and play football. But, if there’s no reason to, go five years. USL would never boot you out when you were through playing. We stayed on scholarship; they just changed it slightly.”
When the degree came, Hamilton was proud he had seen it through.
“USL had, and has, a good engineering school,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t need a big name like Harvard behind my degree. It’s not where you’re from, it’s how much you’ve learned.
“Companies aren’t hiring for grades, but for the discipline you learn,” he said. If you are an engineer, they’ll teach you to do it their way; anyway.”
Hamilton at first learned it Texas Instruments’ way, spending six years in the government products division with top-secret clearance working on infra-red technology and “smart bombs” for the military. That led to repeated industry deferments from military service during the Vietnam War, repeated trips back home to go through red tape with the Waukesha draft board, and repeated visits with the folks.
“I got to know my draft board members on a first-name basis,ï¿½ said Hamilton.
After almost a decade back in Lafayette, Hamilton and his associates recognized a need to branch out beyond servicing just the oil industry, so for the past 2 ï¿½ years they’ve found projects with which to diversify.
Such projects are moving better through computers, with GIS hardware and software. And, with his degree in electrical engineering, the computer angle was right up Hamilton’s alley. There is government work with the Corps of Engineers on Atchafalaya Basin drainage easement and rights of way, a deal which took almost a year to negotiate and required some re-defining of just what the corps wanted.
Hazardous materials is a key field, according to Hamilton, who noted that federally-mandated regulations require much state-wide red tape. Hamilton’s plan is to provide a data base solution to the paperwork.
The 911 emergency service in St. Martin Parish will be undergoing computerization, as well.
“It features automatic system addressing, which saves time for emergency personnel when you can’t speak,” said Hamilton. A discreet address for each house is needed, not some route number, and this helps in mapping and addressing. “Calcasieu and Rapides parishes already have it. It gives you data base manipulation, and people like SLEMCO and UPS will benefit, too. There’s really no opposition to it.”
Hamilton can barely contain his enthusiasm over the GIS system Fenstermaker is using, one they like so much they ï¿½ate” a previous system.
It’s spreading like wildfire, and it’s the wave in engineering in general from maps to data bases,” Hamilton said.
“Information that is hard to find and use is more useful with a map, and the strength of this is the ability to provide information with a map and not slow down the process of regenerating the screen.”
Hamilton travels to cities like Mobile, Ala. presenting their ideas and systems for various civic projects and needs, such as school bus routing. But, at the same time, Hamilton is trying to help the USL engineering department with DigiCAD technology.
“We donated 16 copies of the software to USL for drafting, senior design and graduate programming courses,” said Hamilton. “Also, they’re used as a base for regional training for people like the Air Force, ARCO, and other oil companies.”
That way the money stays in the department, and I’m really proud of that.”
Brad Hamilton has maintained a great deal of pride in his department and USL in general after that arrival here 26 years ago. And he’s also found Acadiana a perfect place to raise those children who have become the center of his life.
* * * * * * * * * *
Prides of Acadiana by Bruce Brown (1980) is a copyrighted enterprise.
Brad Hamilton: Terror of the Trenches
It was called Black Friday, and anyone who survived it had a story to tell about a group of men enduring physical torture and humiliation.
Black Friday was not the level of the Bataan Death March of World War II, but those who braved its demands at times felt like that was their fate.
Black Friday came October 25, 1963, and the University of Southwestern Louisiana football players who came back the next day will never forget it.
Brad Hamilton was one of those who stayed around, and that one day in his freshman year has lasted as vividly as if it were yesterday in the mind of the former Academic All-America selection.
“Black Friday came after we had played Louisiana Tech my freshman year,” he recalled. “It was a day game, and it was Tech’s homecoming. It was hot as the devil out there.
“One of our trainers got the idea to put ice in some styrofoam safari hats, so we could stay cool on the sidelines and have an advantage over the other team. Well, by halftime we were losing 28-0, and when we came out of the locker room after halftime we didn’t see a one of those styrofoam helmets with the ice in them.”
The Cajuns went on to lose 45-0 to Tech, and by the time preparations were in their final stages for the next opponent, Louisiana College, Head Coach Russ Faulkinberry had decided to see which of his team members really wanted to continue in the sport.
The ominous words were sounded to the players before practice that Friday near old McNaspy Stadium, “We’ll see which of you guys wants to play football and which ones don’t,” Faulkinberry told the troops.
“When you went out of the locker room to go to practice, you could go right to go to the field, or you could turn left and head back for the dorms,” Hamilton said. “Four or five seniors went left before we even went on the field.”
In all, Hamilton estimates some 15 players were run off by one of the most arduous days of repeated football drills upon drills that he could remember.
“That was amazing to me as a freshman player,” Hamilton recalled.
“Somehow, by other players ahead of me getting hurt, I had played a lot against Tech the week before. So that put me right up there for heavy punishment with the rest of the first string guys.
USL defeated Louisiana College by a 7-6 score the next day, but the general attrition lasted longer than just that Black Friday session. “There were something like forty or forty-five freshmen on the team my first year,” Hamilton recalled. “About eight or ten of us lasted until our senior years.
“We never had a lot of talent, but we were a close-knit group and we played together. Then when games were over we all went to the same places with our dates. Twenty or twenty-five of us would always end up at the same place in Breaux Bridge.
“The coaches didn’t mind if we had a few beers, because we knew we’d have to run it off Sunday morning.”
The players, then, knew the groundwork under Faulkinberry, whose drill sergeant discipline was a hallmark of his tenure as a Southwestern mentor. But, by the same token, Hamilton saw a gradual change as he grew to become a star offensive guard and defensive tackle for USL.
“Russ was from the Bear Bryant obedience school of football,” Hamilton said. “As freshmen, we feared Russ and his hard-nosed discipline. As sophomores things were less severe, and things got less strict when we were juniors.
“By the time I was a senior, it was easier. “We got better athletes as we went along under Russ, and maybe he didn’t have to be quite so tough with them so much to get things done.
“But I think the times had something to do with it too. That was the time when the Viet Nam War was on, and more and more athletes would not accept someone hollering at them. You couldn’t force athletes to do anything without first explaining the importance of the job to them. Coaching is a lot harder now, especially with drugs more and more a part of the scene.”
In those simpler times, times that were growing more murky by the day, Hamilton established himself as one of the finest linemen ever to play for USL.
He was described by longtime USL coach and athletic administrator Dutch Rinehardt as “easy to coach” and “the kind of player who was determined to follow the coaches’ wishes”. Hamilton also found time for student council activities while compiling an admirable record in an engineering curriculum.
He made all-Gulf States Conference as a tackle in his sophomore year, followed that with his selection as a two-way AII-GSC player (offensive guard and defensive tackle), and was chosen as a Scholastic All-American.
Just when it appeared he would finish with a flourish as a senior, a knee injury sidelined him for four games and hampered his effectiveness for the rest of the season.
The following year, 1967, Hamilton joined Faulkinberry’s staff as a graduate assistant and finished his engineering degree.
“I enjoyed it,” Hamilton said of his stay on the other side of the coin. “It kept us around for a fifth year together. There was never any questions with Russ that we still had our scholarships. He had even let us keep our engineering books after semesters when we were to turn them in. He knew we would need them when we left.”
While serving as a graduate assistant, Hamilton discovered something about Faulkinberry besides his generosity to fifth-year athletes.
“While I feared Russ as a player, when I got to coach with him I discovered, ï¿½Hey, he’s all right.ï¿½ He joked in coaches’ meetings, and I enjoyed working with him.”
Although he lives and works in Lafayette, Hamilton still does not talk like he comes from the bayous. Much of that is because he hails from Wisconsin-Waukesha, to be exact, right outside of Milwaukee.
Certainly, just as college football coaching was less sophisticated in the sixties, so was college recruiting. So how did Hamilton find his way to the bayous from the north?
Largely by accident.
“Joe Blanco was my high school coach at Waukesha,” Hamilton began. “His brother Ray was coaching at USL in 1963 after coaching at Catholic High of New Iberia.
“Joe sent some films of me and another player down to Ray at USL and asked the coaches to take a look at them. They did, and they asked us down for a visit. We came down at Easter break, riding the City of New Orleans train that left Milwaukee at 7 a.m.
“We pulled into New Orleans about 11:30 at night, and figured we’d have a long car ride to Lafayette from there, and we weren’t looking forward to some more travelling.
“Ray picked us up at the station and said, ‘Well, I guess the best way to see the French Quarter is to drive through it first and then walk through it.’
“So here we were, driving around in the French Quarter, then walking past the strip joints and craning our necks in the doorways. Then we went into Pat O’Brien’s where a singer named Roy Perrin was singing school fight songs.
“He saw Ray and sang the USL fight song for Ray and his recruits. Then we got to Lafayette and the players showed us around.”
For Hamilton, this one recruiting trip made up his mind.
“I had made up my mind I wanted to go to the west or to the south,” he recalled. “It was Wyoming or USL, and after that trip I knew where I wanted to go.”
Funny thing is, the USL staff had their eye on Hamilton’s high school sidekick on that trip.
“Irwin Sibille (a then-Cajun coach) told me later, when I was a graduate assistant, that they were really after Bill, who went to Boston College,” Hamilton laughed.
“I told him ‘Thanks a lot’ “.
But the size of USL at the time was just right for Hamilton, and his days were happy ones.
“I enjoyed the football, the athletics, and the school,” he said. “It was a small enough school where the teachers recognized you. Not so much for grades, at least not in my case, but just being recognized as a football player.
“I would get invited to teammates’ homes, and the warmth of the people made a great impression on me.
Hamilton saw one Black Friday or two, but he also developed other memories at USL.
There was the halfback pass to him as a surprise tackle eligible that went for a touchdown against Tampa-only to have the extra point missed in a 7-6 loss.
There were the rough victories over Lamar, a team which was favored over USL, but which the Lafayette team defeated in two such situations.
There was the GSC co-championship with McNeese in 1965.
There was the trip to play Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. “Southern Mississippi was a big game for us,” Hamilton said. “They were always good, and we were afraid of them. Well, we went over there to work out on their field the day before the game, and they had already worked out before us. During our workout, their team members were in the stands with their girlfriends, laughing at us,”
That one ended 30-0, the other way, but a 1964 game against Lenoir-Rhyne went in the Cajuns’ favor. “They were supposed to be a great team, according to the coaches. But they came in and let the kickoff drop without covering it. They were supposed to be a single wing power team and they didn’t even know what to do with a kickoff!” That one went 20-6, USL.
Hamilton remembers Lamar and Arkansas State as being big games, Northwestern Louisiana as having the biggest teams, Louisiana Tech as having good passing, and McNeese as owning a superb defense year-in and year-out.
He recalls the scout squad known as the Green Machine, which took great pride in its appointed task on the team.
He recalls sitting with the physical education majors at graduation, and being the lone engineering student in his part of Blackham Coliseum when the call went for engineering majors to stand.
He recalls the “unbelievable heavy atmosphere” in Louisiana as compared with the air in Wisconsin, and he remembers the misery that would cause in early autumn drills.
But through all the drills, Brad Hamilton remembers the deep, lasting relationships he developed while at USL-relationships still alive among the few in his class who survived Black Friday and emerged on a brighter day.
Prides of Acadiana by Bruce Brown (1980) is a copyrighted enterprise.