ATLANTA (Oct. 1, AP) — When Joe Hamilton is alone in his room, he can’t help himself. His thoughts will drift to what it would be like to sit on the front row at the Downtown Athletic Club and hear something like this:
“The Heisman Trophy is awarded to Joe Hamilton of Georgia Tech.”
The very idea would have seemed preposterous in 1995 when the undersized quarterback from tiny Alvin, S.C., signed with a team that went 1-10 the previous season. It doesn’t seem so farfetched anymore.
“From what I’ve seen of the other Heisman candidates, Joe is right up there with the best,” said his favorite receiver, Dez White. “He has as good a chance as any to win the Heisman.”
Hamilton had the spotlight to himself Thursday night, leading the No. 9 Yellow Jackets to a 49-31 victory over previously unbeaten Maryland in a nationally televised game. He threw for 387 yards and three touchdowns and also had a 41-yard scoring run, setting a school record with 474 total yards.
“I can’t imagine a better college football player than Joe Hamilton,” Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden said. “I can’t imagine a more complete player.”
Hamilton also knows a thing or two about timing. His 387 passing yards equaled his career high, set this season in a nationally televised game against top-ranked Florida State.
Even though Tech (3-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost to the Seminoles 41-35, Hamilton’s performance — four TDs passing, one running, 15 straight completions — earned him a spot among the top Heisman candidates along with Florida State’s Peter Warrick, Purdue’s Drew Brees and Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne.
“I don’t think about that,” said Hamilton, who has won over skeptics who said he wasn’t tall enough — generously listed at 5-foot-10 — to play quarterback. “I want to do my best every time, no matter who’s watching. I don’t care if I’m playing in the back yard.”
Upon further review, he conceded the Heisman does have a place on the edge of his psyche.
“I’m not dwelling on it. I’m not focusing on it,” Hamilton said. “But, yeah, it’s something I think about to myself when I’m alone in my room. I definitely don’t bring it up to anybody else.”
Led by Hamilton, Georgia Tech has one of the most lethal offenses in the country, averaging 43.5 points per game.
Maryland (3-1, 0-1) had been the nation’s stingiest team about giving up points, allowing only 10 in its first three games. The Yellow Jackets eclipsed that before the game was seven minutes old.
“We knew we could score,” said White, who caught five passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. “There’s no element of fear in our offense. We believe we can make plays against any defense.”
Hamilton, the nation’s top-rated passer, has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,074 yards and 10 TDs. Against Maryland, he threw his first two interceptions of the season but more than compensated with touchdown passes of 80 and 29 yards to White and a 30-yarder to Kerry Watkins.
“We have a mentality,” Hamilton said, “that every time we touch the ball, we’re going to get it into the end zone.”