BLACKSBURG (HokiesSports.com) – Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente announced on Sunday that Justin Hamilton has been promoted to Defensive Coordinator after spending the past season coaching safeties for the Hokies. He will continue in that role in addition to his new responsibilities.
Hamilton returned to Blacksburg in 2018 as Director of Player Development – Defense. The Clintwood, Virginia native served as a versatile player for Frank Beamer, Bud Foster and the Hokies from 2002-05. He spent time working at running back, wide receiver and defensive back for Tech, in addition to playing a prominent role on special teams before going on to play in the National Football League.
“Justin has earned this opportunity to lead our defense and our football team,” Fuente said. “Everyone in our program has a great deal of respect for him and his abilities. Coach Foster has reiterated to me on several occasions that Justin is ready for this next step in his coaching career. I feel the same way and am convinced he’s exactly the right fit for this role at Virginia Tech.
“Coach Hamilton is a talented coach and recruiter with a deep passion for both the game and Virginia Tech. He possesses a great knack for connecting with our players. His voice carries tremendous weight on the field and in the locker room because he’s worn that helmet and experienced many of the same things the young men in our program are going through.
“Coach Hamilton and I both understand the legacy and tradition of Lunch Pail Defense that Coach Foster and generations of players have established at Virginia Tech. Justin has been, and certainly continues to be a big part of that. There’s no way to replace a man like Bud Foster. What we need is a coach, a teacher and a talent evaluator who can help our current team continue to succeed, while recruiting the right kind of young men to join our program in the future. There’s no question in my mind that Justin Hamilton is the right man for the job.”
A young Virginia Tech defense continued to grow in 2019, in large part due to the play of the Hokies’ safeties and Hamilton’s influence. During the season’s final five regular season games Tech forced 31 three-and-outs and allowed 15.4 points per game. The Hokies become the first ACC team to post back-to-back shutouts against Power Five foes for the first time since 1978, racking up a 45-0 win at Georgia Tech (11/16) and a 28-0 win vs. Pitt (11/23). Tech finished the regular season ranked second in the ACC and ranked seventh among Power Five schools in Red Zone defense.
“I’m honored, humbled and beyond excited about this opportunity,” Hamilton said. “I appreciate the faith and trust that Coach Fuente has placed in me. I understand and appreciate the responsibility that comes with this position. I was raised in this game by Frank Beamer and Bud Foster. Virginia Tech football will always be part of my identity.
“No one can ever fill Bud’s shoes, but we are going to strive to play tough, aggressive defense just like we always have here at Tech. I’m indebted to Coach Fuente to get to continue coaching at a place I love very dearly. We’re going to do everything we can to uphold the Virginia Tech standard on the defensive side of the ball.”
As a senior defensive back in 2005, Hamilton posted 35 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions, helping lead the Hokies to its second consecutive appearance in the ACC Championship Game and a win over Louisville in the 2006 Gator Bowl. Overall, Hamilton appeared in 52 career games with three rushing touchdowns and one touchdown catch. Hamilton was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL Draft and he registered 15 tackles in 10 games as a rookie. He also spent time with Washington Redskins during the 2008 season before retiring from the NFL.
“He was a gritty player and he’s exactly the same way as a coach,” Foster said. “He’s fought and competed for every opportunity he’s earned in the coaching profession and I respect the way he’s approached it from day one. When we brought Justin back to Virginia Tech, in the back of my head I was hoping that I could help groom him to someday become a defensive coordinator. While I didn’t know when or where that opportunity might come, I’m thrilled that it’s happened for him at Virginia Tech.
“When Coach Fuente asked whether Coach Hamilton was ready, my answer was, ‘Absolutely, he’s ready. He’s a guy who will evolve, learn and get better from every experience,'” Foster continued. “I know Coach Fuente didn’t have to ask my opinion, but when he did it just confirmed what we were both already thinking, that we had the right man already in the building to carry the torch for the Lunch Pail Defense. I couldn’t be more proud of Justin and I’ll continue supporting him and the Hokies in any way I can in my new role away from the field.”
Hamilton native spent four seasons at VMI prior to returning to Blacksburg in 2018. He worked as VMI’s inside linebackers coach in 2017 after a three-year stint coaching outside linebackers. He also served as co-special teams coordinator for his final three seasons with the Keydets. Hamilton joined VMI after serving as defensive coordinator at UVA-Wise from 2011-13. He also spent time as a strength and conditioning coordinator at UVA-Wise in 2010-11.
Fuente also confirmed on Sunday that assistant coaches Zohn Burden and Brian Mitchell will not return to the Virginia Tech coaching staff.