FOOTBALL: The ‘Tin Man’ shines

Marquis Hamilton catches one of his two touchdown passes in the Cyclones game against North Dakota State last Thursday. File photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Shing Kai Chan

Marquis Hamilton catches one of his two touchdown passes in the Cyclones’ game against North Dakota State last Thursday. File photo: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Jake Lovett

Through all the flash and fanfare that comes with being a premiere offensive weapon for a major college football program, some of the more consistent and reliable playmakers may appear to need a little more polish.

Iowa State’s Marquis Hamilton — nicknamed the “Tin Man” by his teammates — has been that guy for the Cyclones in his fourth season, and is one of the most experienced leaders for the young offensive squad. Hamilton, a senior from Oklahoma City, started the 2009 campaign with a four-catch, 97 yard, two touchdown effort against North Dakota State.

“For a senior to step up and show that kind of leadership and production shows the way to the whole football team,” head coach Paul Rhoads said.

Leading the young offense is Hamilton’s most important role, according to coaches, as he is one of just two seniors listed as starters on offense.

“I’m not sure much has changed,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know as far as Xs and Os what my role is, but the coaches want me to be a leader out there.”

Even after Hamilton’s impressive performance in the season opener, the coaching staff insist that Hamilton has not become the go-to guy of the offense. Rhoads went so far as to say the spread offense the Cyclones run would be better off without one main target, particularly on third downs.

Junior quarterback Austen Arnaud targeted Hamilton several times last week, and the 6-foot-3-inches receiver was also the target of a reverse pass from junior college transfer Darius Reynolds in the first half.

“I would like to think so,” Hamilton said with a smile when asked if he was Austen Arnaud’s top target. “I don’t know, though, it can change from game to game.”

Hamilton played the early part of his career in the shadow of Todd Blythe and R.J. Sumrall — Iowa State’s top two receivers since 2005 — but still managed to put up good numbers, particularly in 2007 when he had 45 catches for 534 yards.

Now, the roles are reversed for the veteran receiver, as he is the mentor for the Cyclones’ young receiving corps.

“We’ve got newcomers like Reynolds and [freshman] Josh Lenz, so his play helps them to follow suit,” Rhoads said.

Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said Hamilton was consistent and sharp during fall practice, but was thrust into an unfamiliar position last week after sophomore Sedrick Johnson was injured in the first quarter.

Johnson, another one of Iowa State’s top threats, plays the “X” receiver position, twisted his ankle after being tackled awkwardly, so Herman called on Hamilton to fill the void.

“He had not played very many snaps at ‘X’, and he rolled right in there and we didn’t miss a beat,” Herman said. “I don’t think it was any surprise to any of us that have been around him through spring ball and two-a-days.”

Playing the new position didn’t appear to slow the “Tin Man” down, if anything it allowed him to show a higher gear that most around the team aren’t accustomed to.

In the third quarter, Hamilton caught a pass from Arnaud on a slant route, and then out ran the Bison defense for a 39-yard touchdown.

“All I saw was green grass and I was thinking ‘Just don’t get caught,’” Hamilton said. “It was something I don’t think a lot of people expected from me, I myself didn’t expect it. So, it was definitely something different, like a different aspect of my game.”

But, where did that nickname come from?

“My flexibility probably isn’t the best on the team,” Hamilton said with a laugh. “The guys always give me crap about it.”