Hamilton and Carter named All-Americans

Michael Dougherty

All season long, Gophers football coach Glen Mason said strong safety Tyrone Carter and center Ben Hamilton are the best players at their positions in the country. On Monday afternoon the Associated Press validated Mason’s claim and named the duo first-team All-Americans.
The last time Minnesota has had two players receive first-team accolades was in 1961, when quarterback Sandy Stephens and lineman Bobby Bell were honored.
Carter, a senior, and Hamilton, a junior, led a group of seven Big Ten players on the team of 24. Penn State had three players on the first team (defensive lineman Courtney Brown along with linebackers LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short). Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne and tackle Chris McIntosh rounded out the list.
“It’s really an honor,” Carter said. “It tells me that all the effort I put in really paid off.”
With 511 career tackles, Carter broke the NCAA record for tackles by a defensive back. He is four shy of breaking the Division I record for solo tackles by any defender. His 356 punt return yards this season also set a school record.
Carter, who won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back Thursday, said he has been invited to play in both the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and the Hula Bowl in Maui. The all-star games are both played on Jan. 22, so he hasn’t yet decided which one he will play in.
While Carter has the ability to have more of an individual impact on a game, centers don’t usually play such a crucial role.
But Hamilton is different.
When ESPN announcer Bill Curry was at the Metrodome for the Ohio State game on Oct. 23, he said Hamilton “is the best center that I have seen since I started broadcasting in 1997. He is the only center I have seen who is a ‘difference-maker,’ meaning (Gophers) coaches can structure their offense around the way this kid plays the game.”
The son of former Vikings offensive lineman Wes Hamilton, Ben has started 33 of 34 games since he has been at the University. In 1998, he gave up only one sack and didn’t have a penalty called against him.
“We always talked about getting that honor together when we would go to media day in Chicago, but he was thinking he wouldn’t be able to get it because of all the competition,” Carter said. “But I would just keep telling him to keep focused and keep working harder and now that he’s got it I can look at it and tell him, ‘I told you it would come.'”
The two were both named to All-America teams by the Sporting News, the Football News and CBS Sportsline as well.
Penn State forgets Alamo
No. 18 Penn State, which accepted the invitation to the Alamo Bowl which the Gophers coveted, only sold 1,300 tickets to the game and turned the rest of its allotment over to opponent Texas A&M.
Usually the Alamo Bowl requires competing schools be responsible for 10,800 tickets. If the teams can’t sell that many tickets, they still have to pay for them.
Prior to accepting the Sun Bowl invitation, University sources said they were told in preliminary discussions with Alamo Bowl officials they would be responsible for 15,000 tickets. Those officials were nervous the Gophers might not attract the crowds the bowl in San Antonio usually gets.
Penn State officials, including coach Joe Paterno, said they were seriously considering declining the invitation because they were disappointed they didn’t get to play on New Year’s day, thus ending an eight-year streak of playing on Jan. 1.
Despite the poor showing by the Penn State faithful, the game is still a sellout thanks to the drawing power of 13th-ranked Texas A&M.

Notes
ù Mason was named a finalist for the Paul “Bear” Bryant National Coach of the Year Award. The award, which is presented by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, will be announced on Jan. 6 in Houston. Mason has already been named coach of the year by Football News.
ù The University media relations department said 3,800 tickets were sold as of Monday morning, 500 more than Oregon has sold. Tickets that have already been purchased will be mailed out Wednesday. Tickets can be ordered until the team leaves for El Paso on Dec. 26. After that date, ticket purchases will have to be made through the Sun Bowl ticket office.

Michael Dougherty covers men’s basketball and football and welcomes comments at [email protected]