Antonio Hamilton’s underdog mentality unchanged entering Year 8

Jun 15, 2023, 6:45 PM

Antonio Hamilton...

Arizona Cardinals CB Antonio Hamilton (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Hamilton has had to grind harder than most to get to where he is today.

Unlike others on the team that were handed scholarships entering college, he had to walk on to earn his spot on the roster.

It was much of the same coming up in the NFL world, too, entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the then-Oakland Raiders before trying to latch on with three other teams elsewhere until joining the Cardinals’ ranks in 2021.

And while he’s projected to near the top of the pecking order in the CBs room, Hamilton is still carrying that same mentality as he locks in for Year 8.

“For most of my career, I usually always started off as the bottom corner. Every year they try to replace me,” Hamilton said Wednesday. “So, I don’t really care about starting at the top. I like to be at the bottom quite frankly.

“It’s just something that gives me that edge to keep going and to dominate and when I do, they hear about it, everybody. I just like to be where I’m at.”

That mentality paid off last offseason when Hamilton shot up the depth chart into a starting role alongside former Cardinal Byron Murphy. After making just two starts through six NFL seasons, Hamilton appeared set to blow that number out of the water in 2022.

That was until a freak cooking accident left him severely burned, forcing him off the field and out of the starting lineup. He eventually made it back in the lineup in Week 5, albeit in a backup role as he worked his way back into game shape. By season’s end, Hamilton would have just five starts across 10 games played, a far cry from his earlier expectations.

Now back to 100% healthy, Hamilton is focused on returning to the top of the depth chart while understanding there’s always going to be somebody waiting in the wings for playing time.

That includes 2023 draft picks Garrett Williams — upon his return from rehabbing a torn ACL — and Kei’Trel Clark.

And just because the two rookies — in addition to the free agents and returners — present even more competition for Hamilton, that doesn’t mean the veteran is going to go about his business closed off from the rest of the room.

“We go out there and have one common goal to accomplish and no matter what it is, we’re going to compete against each other all within helping each other,” Hamilton said Wednesday. “That’s something that I’m big on. I’m not one of those people that’s not going to help him because he’s in front of me. No, I’m trying to give him everything I can give him so that he can be the greatest player.

“I take it all and I love it. I treat it as a great sense of pride. I know I have a lot of wisdom to share and not just knowledge — what I’ve been through, what I’ve done, what I’ve seen. A lot of those guys are going to get a lot of different opportunities to do a lot of great things.”

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