Gopher Star Turns Down All-America

Wednesday, July 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Like any college offensive lineman hoping for a career in the NFL, Minnesota's Ben Hamilton is thankful for national recognition. But there was one preseason honor he couldn't accept.

An All-American center after last season as a junior, Hamilton turned down a spot on Playboy magazine's preseason All-America team because he doesn't want his named linked with the publication.

``I'm a Christian guy and I didn't feel comfortable being associated with Playboy magazine,'' Hamilton said. ``It was really hard because it is an honor, and playing offensive line, you don't get too many honors and they don't come along too often.''

Players posed for a picture in the magazine's October issue — which hits newsstands in August — but there are no bunnies in the photo. Nor were half-dressed women hanging around when players gathered for the photo shoot in Phoenix in May.

Hamilton's decision was ``not a big deal for us,'' Playboy spokesman Rob Hilburger said. He declined to comment further, including on whether any other players had turned down a spot on the team in the past.

Danny Wuerffel, who won the Heisman Trophy playing for Florida in 1996, turned down the chance to be on the magazine's team earlier that year, citing his religious convictions. In 1995, Florida State center Clay Shiver also declined the magazine's offer.

Hamilton knew the All-America team had little to do with the magazine's reputation because Gophers coach Glen Mason assured him it was a bona fide honor. Hamilton also discussed his decision with former Playboy honorees such as ex-teammate Tyrone Carter and Purdue quarterback Drew Brees.

``People would tell me things like that, but I guess for my close friends, I didn't want to portray the wrong idea of the kind of person I am,'' Hamilton said.

The civil engineering major, who expects to graduate next spring, said he worried a little about whether his decision would affect his future, even though he's already on Street and Smith's, Lindy's, Football News and other preseason All-America teams.

Hamilton, son of former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Wes Hamilton, is 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds. He gave up one sack in each of the last two years and anchored an offensive line that led the Gophers to an 8-4 record and a place in the Sun Bowl.

Some NFL officials think Hamilton's decision might actually benefit his draft status in an era when personal behavior is highly publicized.

``From a character standpoint, you know you don't have to worry about Ben Hamilton,'' said Scott Studwell, Minnesota Vikings player personnel coordinator.

``It's obviously a big issue today and yesterday and in the future. Character plays a major role in the evaluation process, so that's certainly a benefit to Ben as far as his pro potential is concerned,'' Studwell said.

Hamilton wants to follow his father, who played from 1976-85, into the NFL, and he probably will get that chance.

``I know he's intelligent, I know he's diligent,'' Studwell said. ``He has some size potential, which for that position, to be as tall as he is, is unusual. I know he's a pretty good athlete.''

But if a pro career doesn't work out, Hamilton said, he won't be devastated, in part because of his strong religious beliefs.

``Well I know, football wise, it'd probably be bad to turn down something like this, but football is not the most important thing in my life, so it came down to deciding how important it is to me to be on that team or not be on that team,'' he said.


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