Joe Hamilton eager for challenge of Georgia Tech radio analyst

College Football Hall of Fame member Joe Hamilton has moved on from working in Georgia Tech's recruiting office and will now coach quarterbacks privately. (GT Athletics/DANNY KARNIK)

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College Football Hall of Fame member Joe Hamilton has moved on from working in Georgia Tech's recruiting office and will now coach quarterbacks privately. (GT Athletics/DANNY KARNIK)

When Sean Bedford announced in March that he was going to step away from his role as Georgia Tech’s radio analyst after seven seasons, Joe Hamilton’s interest was piqued.

He always is thinking about his next step, he said, and this one made sense. The Yellow Jackets legend already had a role on the pregame broadcast breaking down both teams’ quarterbacks. He is one of the hosts of “The Locker Room” morning show on The Fan, the flagship station of the Georgia Tech Sports Network. And there was no denying his passion for his alma mater.

“So when Sean stepped down, I’m like, ‘Maybe this is an opportunity,’” Hamilton said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Am I qualified? Can I do this?”

Hamilton received his answer July 20, when Tech radio voice Andy Demetra called him to let him know, as Demetra put it, “that we need to have more Alvin, South Carolina, representation in our radio booth,” a reference to Hamilton’s tiny hometown.

“He yelled like he had just beaten Georgia,” Demetra said. “To say he was fired up is an understatement.”

As Hamilton put it, “I can’t be more ecstatic.”

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Yellow Jackets

Hamilton’s status with Tech fans is obvious – after a dazzling career quarterbacking the Tech offense from 1996-99 that earned him a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame, he is perhaps the most popular player in program history. That alone didn’t earn him the job, however.

“It wasn’t handed to me,” he said. “I’m so proud of that.”

Hamilton was one of three finalists in the search led by Demetra (all were “very impressive former Tech letterwinners,” according to Demetra), with all three auditioning by calling a recording of the second half of Tech’s win over North Carolina last season with Demetra at the school’s TV production facility.

Demetra, select Tech officials and multimedia rights holder Legends obviously were not opposed to having someone of Hamilton’s magnitude in the booth, “but that only gets you so far,” Demetra said. “At the end of the day, it’s about how clearly can you break down a play and communicate that to our audience on a Saturday. And that’s where we really wanted to see how Joe could excel.”

Hamilton proved himself, Demetra said. As Tech’s radio voice since 2016 put it, a great analyst not only has to be able to quickly explain why a play worked or why it didn’t and offer analysis on the flow of the game, but also do so in a way that captivates listeners.

“I think we got a really good sense during the audition that Joe could be very good at that,” Demetra said. “And so I’m really excited to work with him and excited to hear what he’ll bring to our broadcast.”

ExploreJoe Hamilton to be Georgia Tech’s new radio analyst

For his part, Hamilton said he approached it by speaking as he would to a friend or his son, Skylar, or his daughter, Kayden.

“To be able to break it down a little bit, be able to talk from the perspective of what’s going on, what’s happening now, what coach (Geoff) Collins is talking about, or his rhyme or reason, (quarterbacks coach) Chris Weinke, (quarterback) Jeff Sims, all those type things,” Hamilton said. “(Offensive coordinator) Chip Long, why would he call this? What’s the game plan? I’m very versed in those type of things.”

Hamilton, who served as a recruiting assistant from 2013-16 during coach Paul Johnson’s tenure, has been a fixture in Atlanta sports talk radio since 2018. He has been a part of the “Locker Room” show since its inception in July of last year.

Hamilton will follow in the estimable footsteps of Bedford, Roddy Jones, Rick Strom and the late Kim King (along with able pinch hitting by Falcons great Jeff Van Note).

“Let’s be honest; Andy is a professional and he’s the real deal Holyfield,” Hamilton said. “For me, it’s fitting in.”

Particularly for someone whose enthusiasm is obvious and also whose opinions carry weight within the Tech fan base, Hamilton puts on the headset at a ticklish moment. Collins enters his fourth season after three consecutive three-win seasons and with fan support dwindling. Should this season follow the path that many expect – the Yellow Jackets were picked to finish sixth in the Coastal Division in the ACC’s preseason media poll – fans won’t be looking for sunshine and roses from their radio analyst.

“I think both the play-by-play guy and the color analyst have an obligation to be honest with our listeners,” Demetra said. “But if there’s a situation where we do need to be critical, let’s make sure that we’re tactful in doing so and that we still do it in a way that respects the student-athlete. I think that Joe understands more acutely than anyone how tough it is to be a Georgia Tech student-athlete and how tough it is to be successful.”

Hamilton is well aware of his responsibilities to listeners and intends to honor them. His storyline for the season centers on Collins and his staff: “That’s my concern. Can we coach? Bottom line.”

Certainly, it is a question that Tech fans have asked (and some have answered) as the Jackets have struggled to compete in the ACC under Collins’ leadership. And now one that Hamilton will weigh in on over the course of the season, as he shares his perspective and passion for his alma mater across Tech’s radio network from a position of authority. He’s eager for the opportunity.

“I think about Georgia Tech often,” he said. “That’s where I bleed.”