By (Matthew Speakman)

Shaun Dion Hamilton entered fall camp ready to get back to work. The senior star linebacker had not been 100 percent since he tore his ACL on Dec. 3 against Florida. So, when he lined up for a tackling drill and saw Bo Scarbrough looking back at him, he knew he was ready. Hamilton hit Scarborough and said two words to himself, “I’m back.”

Hamilton was a key cog in the machine that was Alabama’s defense last season. Starting opposite of Reuben Foster, Hamilton racked up 64 total tackles and nine tackles for loss in 13 games for the Crimson Tide.

When he went down against Florida, Rashaan Evans took his pace. Evans is now excited to see his partner back on the field. The two will start right next to each other in the heart of Alabama’s defense.

“I’ve just seen a healthy guy,” Evans said. “Like [Hamilton] said, he’s been looking pretty fast lately, and I feel like now he’s starting to get a lot more comfortable running on that knee that he had the injury on.”

Hamilton, a preseason, All-SEC second-team selection, did not get healthy all on his own, however. Jeff Allen, Alabama’s long-time head athletic trainer, played a crucial role in getting Hamilton back to 100 percent. Hamilton said he would not be where he is without Allen and his motivation.

“He’s been my best friend since December third,” Hamilton said. “I could never thank our training staff enough for all they’ve done with me. I’ve got a relationship with them that’s love them to death. I’d give them the shirt off my body. I love them and thank them for everything they did.”

Dealing with an injury as serious as a torn ACL is not only physical, but mental. Getting your body back to the same strength is just step one. The psychological aspect for some is almost more difficult.

Convincing the mind to trust your body can be a roadblock for some athletes who come back from serious injury. Evans says Hamilton has handled it well.

“I’ve dealt with injuries like that, too,” Evans said. “It takes some time for any guy to kind of just get used to running back on it like they used to, so I think Shaun Dion’s done a great job with just his rehab and all those things to get back right.”

Hamilton is now expected to take over Reuben Foster’s role of being the main linebacker in Alabama’s defense. At 6-feet, 235 pounds Hamilton can do it all. He’s strong at stopping the run, but can also rush the passer and drop into coverage. His numbers last season showed this. He had two sacks and two interceptions.

Hamilton could not be more ready to get back on the field and take on No. 3 Florida State. This season, he plays a bigger role than his previous three seasons.

“It didn’t hit me until Saturday when I realized we play a week from now,” Hamilton said. “I’m pretty excited, I know our team is excited. We need to have a good week of practice this week.”

As the Crimson Tide get ready to go up against a team that is loaded with talent, the defense will need Hamilton to play like he did before his ACL injury. If there were any questions about how healthy he is, Hamilton put those to rest.

“I feel good, better than ever,” Hamilton said. “I’m just excited to get back on the field in an actual game. I’m ready to go.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports