Born: May 25, 1971
Town: Paterson, New Jersey
Keith Lamarr Hamilton was born May 25, 1971 in Paterson. Patricia and Willie Lee Hamilton had an older son, Jarrod. Violence in their Paterson neighborhood convinced the Hamiltons to move to Patricia’s hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia when Keith was three years old. He and his brother fished and camped and later hunted. They also excelled in sports. Keith grew to 6’3” and excelled in baseball, basketball, football and track. Their father was a supervisor in a foundry who used a strap to discipline his boys. When Keith was 14, his mother had a daughter, Rhyan.
Keith became a standout in four sports at Lynchburg Heritage High, and was the star of the Pioneers football team. He accepted a scholarship from the University of Pittsburgh in 1989. His father died while he was in college, and Keith took on fatherly responsibilities for Rhyan.
Keith played defensive tackle for the Panthers on a line that, year in and year out, proved to be the team’s great strength. The 1989 team ranked in the Top 20. The 1991 team finished 6–5. Keith and fellow defensive tackle Sean Gilbert led the defense, and both were drafted in 1992 (Keith decided to forego his senior year). The New York Giants took Keith in the fourth round.
Keith’s aggressive play earned him the nickname The Hammer, as well as a starting job at left defensive end in his second season. That year, he recorded 11.5 sacks to lead the team. In 1994, he tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks, recovered three fumbles and produced a safety. In 1996, he moved to right defensive tackle, with Michael Strahan taking over at defensive end.
The Giants suffered through a playoff drought in the years after Phil Simms retired, reaching the postseason just once between 1994 and 1999. In 2000, Keith enjoyed his most dominant season as a pro and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors with 43 tackles and 10 sacks. He was named the team’s defensive MVP as the Giants rolled to their first NFC Championship since 1990. Their great season ended in a Super Bowl loss to the Ravens.
In 2002, Rhyan was killed in a car accident driving an SUV Keith had bought his younger sister. He had set aside money for her college education and she had become like an older sister to Keith’s kids. Keith had been focused on making a comeback from an Achilles injury, but now he simply lost interest in playing, and retired after the 2003 season. His 63 career sacks placed him fourth on the Giants’ all-time list.
After his playing days, Keith settled in Morris County and went into business as owner of a property management company. His son, Darius, starred at defensive end for Don Bosco Prep and accepted a scholarship from Rutgers.