The federation, based in Indianapolis, created the award to recognize individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.
Hamilton, entering his fourth year with the school, has implemented a player of the day program, which allows a special needs student to participate in the game day activities of the football team, including receiving a game jersey to wear at school, accompanying the team in the pregame meal and on the sidelines and participating in pregame warmups if physically capable.
“Even when I was in high school, I was involved with special education and always had an affinity to help people in need,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton’s program received statewide attention last season when it was featured in the “Class Act” segment on an Atlanta television station through the suggestion of Paulding County Athletic Director Don Breedlove. The program proceeded to gain a nomination for the federation honor and has won the Southeast region of the national competition.
Hamilton notes the program “gets everyone involved and exposes the team to kids that they normally wouldn’t see during the school day because the special needs students’ days are different.”
The program also helps facilitate the annual Special Olympics event that’s hosted by the school and will take place on April 17.
“You will see my football players interact with the special-needs students from around the community and it’s helped both sides create a family atmosphere,” Hamilton said.
The national winner of the federation award will be recognized on June 29 in Boston.