All-conference wrestler makes name for himself as a kicker

For most of his high school career, Hamilton Jones has been best known for achievements on the wrestling mat, as the Jay M. Robinson junior has consistently been ranked as one of the top 10 wrestlers in his weight class.

But the 16-year-old also been busy making a name for himself as the kicker for the Bulldogs' football squad.

Jones has been doing well on Friday nights, having started since his freshman season.

"Ironically, I started kicking before I started wrestling," said the All-South Piedmont Conference wrestler. "But so far, I've been a lot more noticed (for) what I have done in wrestling. I definitely want to keep that going, but I also want to make people notice me on the football field."

Jones' abilities on the gridiron have grown with his body. As a freshman he was limited because he weighed just more than 100 pounds.

Last year, Jones put on about 20 pounds and kicked 35 extra points and one field goal. The field goal turned out to be the game winner in a 10-7 victory against Northwest Cabarrus.

Jones, who's now 140 pounds, has already been more active this season, kicking six extra points, a 34-yard field goal and two successful onside kicks through the first two games of the season. He kicked a career-best five extra points in a 56-35 loss to Monroe.

"Hamilton has gotten a lot bigger and stronger, and that allows him to a lot of things for us," said Jay M. Robinson football coach Bobby Cloninger. "But the big thing about Hamilton is that he is a very committed player. He has gone the extra mile to learn all the aspects of the kicking game."

Jones, who wrestles year-round with Arrichion Club, also works nearly all year on his kicking with everybody from Cloninger and special teams coach Ryan Webber to his private coach, Dan Orner.

Orner, a former UNC Chapel Hill and Minnesota Vikings kicker, has used his experience to coach kickers of all ages, including Northwest Cabarrus kicker Bradley Pinion.

Jones' practice routine during the season includes the same drills Monday through Thursday and then a game-day regimen on Friday, all designed by Orner. Jones said the major lessons Orner has taught him are to focus on his kicks and to follow through.

"Kicking is actually a lot like wrestling in the mental aspect of the games," said Jones. "Both have a one-on-one aspect to them. All eyes are on you, and any minor misstep or mishap can be the difference between being humiliated or being praised."

Jones' mental toughness on the wrestling mat and the football field is no accident. He is equally talented in the classroom, where he holds a 4.3 grade-point average.

Jones hopes to attend either Air Force, Army or Navy, and also kick for their respective football team.

He has experience balancing athletics and academics, having spent two weeks in Annapolis, Md., last summer, attending the U.S. Naval Academy's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math camp as well as its wrestling camp.

All that is just part of Jones' constant training from the classroom to the wrestling mat and to the football field.

"Sometimes it's hectic juggling all of the school, sports and work that I do," said Jones, who has a part-time job at Smoothie King and is a member of the city of Concord's youth council. "It has it's ups and downs, but it is what I love to do."