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Hernando High

Where Are They Now?

TONY CASTRO Hernando Today correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:28 PM

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Editor's note: This is the sixth story in a series highlighting Hernando High's 2012 Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

For the majority of his 74 years, Brooksville's Lorenzo Hamilton has served quietly behind the scenes. He prefers it that way.

Hamilton using his deft abilities to bring folks from varying backgrounds to calm, peaceful resolutions has been his calling.

His unique ability to unite people together for a common cause is the blueprint to his induction into the Hernando High School Sports Hall of Fame.

How special is Hamilton? Consider that he's being bestowed a tremendous honor – typically reserved for alumni only.

Hamilton was born in Cotton Plant – just outside of Ocala – on Aug. 26, 1938 as one of five children (four boys and one girl) to Ernest and Lonnie Hamilton.

Both his parents died when he was a youngster. He was raised by his uncles and aunts.

Hamilton's family relocated from Marion to Polk County, settling in Lake Wales.

Lorenzo, a fine student/athlete, graduated from Roosevelt High in 1956.

As a strapping 6-foot, 205-pounder, Hamilton's gridiron skills caught the attention of Bethune-Cookman head coach Rudolph "Bunky" Matthews.

Like every coach, Matthews was seeking versatile offensive linemen. Hamilton's ability to play all three O-line positions – center, guard or tackle – impressed Matthews.

Matthews, who served as the Wildcats' skipper from 1946-60, held the school record for wins (83) until 2008, when Alvin Wyatt surpassed his mark. Wyatt, who guided the Wildcats from 1996-2009, concluded his career 90-54.

Hamilton, who has never lived anywhere but Florida, played and started for the next four years for the Daytona Beach-based squad.

According to Hamilton, he graduated with All-Academic honors and secured a bachelor's degree in physical education with a minor in driver's education. He's also certified in health education.

Not satisfied, Hamilton eventually enrolled at Florida A&M – the Tallahassee team his 'Cats could never solve in his four years.

At A&M, Hamilton earned his master's in school administration.

Despite never solving the Rattlers, Hamilton looks back fondly at his playing days.

"My (athletic) career was filled with gratifying moments," recalled Hamilton. "I remember us playing Grambling and A&M – they were the Cadillacs. We were undersized and underfunded. It seemed like every game we played we came in as the underdogs. But that's OK; we knew we had to play our best just to try and keep up.

"Most of the time, A&M was the number one black school in the country," he recalled. "I earned a lot of respect for how hard I played against those guys. In the end, I got what I wanted – my degree."

According to Hamilton, "My main goal wasn't to play in the NFL. My main goal was to get my college degree."

While he attended Bethune-Cookman, he saw a sign engraved on a wall that left a lasting impression, "Enter to learn, depart to serve."

After graduation, Hamilton taught at Frostproof High before eventually relocating to Brooksville.

He coached football, basketball and track and field at Moton High in Hernando County.

He described his coaching style in succinct terms.

"I was a strict disciplinarian," he said. "I believed in a great work effect. We might not be the fastest or biggest team out there, but I wanted our kids to outwork and out-prepare the other guys."

Hamilton arrived at Hernando High in 1969 – precisely when the powder-keg issues of segregation and integration clashed head-on in Brooksville.

Brooksville was not spared from the social divide between whites and blacks leading to unrest in the larger cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, and universities across the country.

"That was a tough time," pointed out Hamilton. "Change was in the air. There were plenty of controversies mostly due to people resisting change in our communities."

Hamilton's role as a Leopard administrator during this divisive era was critical.

He looked at himself as a pacifier. He didn't see himself as Gandhi or an early version of John Lennon – but his actions spoke volumes.

"My strength lies in being a moderator and all the things that go with it," said Hamilton. "Getting folks to talk things out helped.

"Eventually, things calmed down and people began to get along – that's all I was seeking.

"Perhaps my greatest strength was I was able to mesh the concerns of the white community with the concerns of our black community," he said. "I look at myself as a bridge builder, a mediator of sorts, and a pacifier."

Finding his niche as a school administrator, Hamilton served in that capacity until 1997.

On his upcoming induction into the Hall of Fame, Hamilton will be flanked by friends and family, including his second wife, Lois Mae, and his only son, Keenan Deion Hamilton, a sophomore at Hernando.

"I see my induction as big for the community," explained Hamilton. "I've always loved sports and always believed you to stand to gain more as a student/athlete.

"There are so many people that have helped me along this journey. I really don't want to name names, because I don't want to forget anyone," he said. "But I'm a better person because of athletics and academics. My family, my adopted family and my community share in this glorious honor."

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