It promises to be another hair-raising season in the Big Sky Conference.
Eastern Washington linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, a Buck Buchanan Award candidate and already the third-leading tackler in school history, has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, the school announced Tuesday.
With the ruling, Hamlin, a senior from Lacey, Wash., gets a chance to make up for losing the 2009 and 2010 seasons because of anterior-cruciate ligament injuries.
Since then, Hamlin has racked up 361 total tackles in 40 games – all but three of those as a starter. Last year, he had 140 tackles, fourth most in school history.
Hamlin, distinguished by his beyond-shoulder-length hair, said he had expected to receive the extra year of eligibility, but admitted to a few doubts.
“Everyone told me not to worry, but then the days went by without any phone calls,” Hamlin said.
In total tackles, Hamlin trails only Greg Belzer (399 from 1997-00) and J.C. Sherritt (432 from 2007-10).
Hamlin is just 71 tackles from Sherritt, who is third in Big Sky history and ranks 15th in FCS history.
Hamlin originally hurt his left knee on Sept. 2, 2009 – just three days before EWU began its season. He had surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament on Oct. 21, but then tore the ACL again during spring practice on April 24, 2010. He had surgery on June 17, then didn’t hit the practice field again until spring of 2011.
“It was tough on Ronnie,” recalled EWU head coach Beau Baldwin of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. “We were thinking he could play right away, and then all of the sudden he was injured.
“We knew he would fight through it, but a year later he was injured again,” Baldwin said.
Once he got back on the field, Hamlin had 85 tackles in 2011 and 136 in 2012.
Eastern will begin spring practices on April 4.
“I can’t wait – it’s going to be fun,” Hamlin said.