Kaden Hamilton said the decision was difficult.
Not his college decision, but his decision to wait before attending college.
The Northeastern High School alum had opportunities to play college football immediately when he graduated last spring. But he decided to spend this year at a prep school to better prepare himself for college athletics and academics.
He earned only one more scholarship offer, but he's glad he made the choice he did.
Hamilton announced his commitment to Bryant University last week and officially signed with the school Wednesday. Located in Smithfield, Rhode Island, Bryant competes in the Northeast Conference at the Division I FCS level. The Bulldogs went 7-4 this season.
The defensive back said he feels more confident about playing at the next level after spending the past year at the Lawrenceville School, a boarding school in New Jersey for both high school and postgraduate students.
"It was a hard decision but my mom always tells me that God will put me in the place I need to be," Hamilton said. "I needed to mature and be on my own. Postgrad (prep school) was a perfect fit for me."
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Choosing a different path
A three-sport athlete at Northeastern, Hamilton said he started playing football in third grade. He laughed when asked if he was natural.
"Nah," he said. "I took a lot of time to develop."
He was a starter on the basketball team and good enough to be a second-team coaches all-star in YAIAA Division I as a senior. He was a state qualifier in the triple jump and the long jump in track and field.
But he always hoped to play football at the next level.
He started at wide receiver and cornerback for Northeastern but go most of his accolades on the defensive side of the ball. Clarion, an NCAA Division II school in the PSAC recruited him as a receiver, but he received Division I offers from Valparaiso and Army as a defensive back.
He also had offers from Division II Lincoln and Division III Gettysburg College. He decided the military route at West Point wasn't for him, and he didn't see himself landing at the other options. Like many students in the class of 2021, his recruitment was limited by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
He started to become unsure if he could play at the Division I level.
"Sometimes you're talking with schools and they just stop talking to you out of the blue," he said. "It feels like they're leading you on. The constant texting and worrying if they're going to pull the trigger ... it's stressful.
"I thought I might have to settle for Division II but I had coaches tell me I could (play Division I) and that got my spirits up."
One of those coaches was Napoleon Sykes, a former Wake Forest linebacker and Navy assistant coach who had just gotten the top job at the Lawrenceville School. Hamilton had been in touch with the school since his sophomore year and looked at it even more as his senior year came to a close. He was accepted into the school last April.
He spent this past fall playing with a mix of postgrad students and current high schoolers against other prep schools across the Northeast. He got to work with a number of coaches who played in the NFL including former New England Patriots Sean Morey and Drew Inzer.
As a high school graduate, he took classes designed to prepare him for a college curriculum.
"They know what you need to do to get to the next level," he said about working with Lawrenceville's coaches. "It was a great experience both athletically and academically. Coach (Sykes) would evaluate us each individually and tell us where he sees us. I never had that before."
Finding a school
Hamilton's recruitment this past year still wasn't easy.
He said he communicated with Division I FCS schools Lehigh, Central Connecticut and Monmouth, but didn't receive offers from them. He said some of the same issues that affected recruits last year — like current college seniors accepting an additional year of eligibility due to COVID — happened again.
But he did find one opportunity.
He went to a football camp at Bryant this past summer and earned an offer from its coaching staff then. He stayed in touch with the school while at Lawrenceville and went for his official visit a few weeks ago.
It didn't hurt that his host on his visit was his friend Taylor Wright-Rawls, the former Central York star receiver who committed to Bryant out of high school.
"They were the first school to show me love and interest and I got good vibes from the coaches," he said. "Taylor showed me all the differences between Pa. and Rhode Island and how to balance school and football. I was looking for the right fit and I got it."
At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.5 seconds, Hamilton said he's planning to play safety in college. He's also interested in competing for the school's track team as a jumper, though he'll have to go over the details of that we he reports to the school this summer. He's looking to study either data analysis or cyber security.
He's glad he made the decision to wait a year before beginning to play college football.
"It was a hard school to get into and it made a difference," he said of Lawrenceville. "I feel prepared for the workload and how to handle everything."
Matt Allibone is a sports reporter for GameTimePA. He can be reached at 717-881-8221, email@example.com or on Twitter at @bad2theallibone.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Bryant University: Northeastern's Kaden Hamilton commits for football