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Hamlin looks forward to facing Notre Dame

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Damar Hamlin was one of the biggest recruits tied to the Pat Narduzzi tenure at Pitt.

A standout for nearby Pittsburgh Central Catholic in high school who led the Vikings to a state championship in 2015, Hamlin earned 25 scholarships offers, and was one of the most highly sought after defensive backs in the country.

One of his scholarship offers was from Notre Dame and he nearly picked the Irish before settling on staying home just a few days before Signing Day.

“I would say my family, my little brother - a lot of things, but that would be the main one,” Hamlin said this week when discussing why he picked the Panthers.

The Central Catholic product is in his junior season, but it has not been an easy road for him to this point. Hamlin has battled injuries during his time at Pitt. Now, in his first season as the full-time starter, he is starting to become the player many expected him to be back when he signed in 2016.

In Pitt’s 44-37 overtime win over Syracuse, Hamlin recorded 14 tackles and was named ACC Defensive Back of the week for that performance.

“It’s just like a blessing, that’s the only way to put it,” Hamlin said of receiving the honor. “I’ve been through a lot these last couple years that I’ve been here with surgeries and a whole bunch of stuff and just to get the season rolling and get that ACC player of the week is just something to keep me going and just makes me hungrier.”

Hamlin has 35 tackles through six games this season, which is good for second most on the team behind only middle linebacker Quintin Wirginis. He also has three tackles for loss and an interception on the year as well. Defensive Coordinator Randy Bates credits his work ethic for his emergence this season.

“Damar is one of the most locked-in athletes that I’ve seen,” Bates said of the junior safety. “He’s here early, he’s here late watching tape and doing the little things that make you a better player, not just a good player.”

For his part, Hamlin said that kind of work ethic has been around since his high school days.

“No, that’s always something I’ve been doing even when I was back at Central (Catholic), that’s something they put in us and keep it going,” Hamlin said “That’s just the love of the game.”

The 2015 Central Catholic state championship team will be well represented in the game on Saturday in South Bend. Along with Hamlin, Pitt also features defensive tackle Rashad Wheeler and fellow safety Bricen Garner, while Notre Dame has Central Catholic alum Kurt Hinish on it’s two-deep depth chart at defensive tackle. David Adams was also a member of that team and attended Notre Dame, but an injury forced him to retire from football.

In addition to the players from Central Catholic, the Irish feature three more Pittsburgh-area natives, including starting right tackle Robert Hainsey. Hamlin said he’s looking forward to the mini reunion.

“It’s going to be good to get all there and compete against some of the guys I played with,” Hamlin said. “It’ll be fun.”