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Becoming a Razorback: Kai Hamilton’s Academic and Athletic Success

Kai Hamilton in the lobby of the Hope Collegiate Academy at UAHT

Yesterday afternoon, Hope was abuzz with excitement as some monumental news about one of our very own spread through town. Kai Hamilton has been accepted to the University of Arkansas and is committed to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks next season! Kai was given a D1 offer and a preferred walk on scholarship.

Playing for the University of Arkansas has been Kai’s dream since he was freshman and he says receiving the call that he made the team was both shocking and exciting. “Arkansas was the only school I wanted to play for,” Kai said. “For so long, I have worked for this and hoped for it, but in that moment, it became real. Yesterday, when we went to Fayetteville for media day and I got to put on my jersey, that was a whole new level. Then, when I got to talk to Coach Kennedy in person, I finally understood this was a reality now.” Before being accepted to play for the Hogs, Kai had to first be accepted into the University of Arkansas Academics Program. He applied two months ago and quickly received an acceptance letter. How did this young man from Hope, Arkansas get to the point where in a matter of two months he was accepted to one of the nations top public research universities and a team with 43 national championships? Through hard work, perseverance, and an indomitable spirit.

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Kai, a senior at UAHT’s Hope Collegiate Academy and football player for the Hope Bobcats, has spent the last three years working toward this moment and has proven that academics and sports do not have to be mutually exclusive. The Hope Collegiate Academy is a public school on the UAHT campus that is free of charge and provides students a three-year curriculum which allows them to obtain a high school diploma and an associate degree simultaneously. What most don’t don’t realize, though, is that while attending classes in this program, students can still participate in high school extracurricular activities, as well. Kai has spent the last three years attending college classes in the morning at the Hope Collegiate Academy on the UAHT campus and football practice in the afternoon at Hope High School’s Hammon’s Stadium. Kai will graduate this year with a high school diploma and an associate degree, and says being in this program will actually allow him to better focus on football since he won’t be bogged down adapting to a college workload. He’s already been doing it for a few years now. Also, he will be eligible for an Active Transfer Scholarship. If accepted, this means he will receive college tuition at the University of Arkansas for lower rates. 

When he heads to Fayetteville next fall to begin classes and practice, Kai says he is confident and feels prepared because of his time at Hope Collegiate Academy. Kai credits Mikki Curtis, Dean of Secondary Programs at UAHT, for providing a good schedule that has prepared him for his soon-to-be college life. She, however, gives all the credit to Kai. “I am so happy for Kai. It has been a joy to have him as part of the Hope Collegiate Academy,” Curtis said. “He is a prime example that, with a little hard work, students can excel in academics and athletics at the same time. We look forward to seeing everything all of our graduates accomplish in the future and to cheering Kai on at the University of Arkansas.” 

Kai also gives credit to the coaches at Hope High School who have worked with him the last few years. He says Coach Turner sent his film and resume to the University of Arkansas, as well as continuously encouraged him to improve his game and keep his grades up. Coach Turner wasn’t available for comment, but Coach Eryc McClaslin shared with SWARK.Today the Bobcat coaching staff’s point of view regarding Kai’s accomplishment. “This is very well-deserved,” Coach McCaslin said. “It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. He’s been a leader for us all year, on the field and in the weight room. He makes sure everyone holds to a certain standard. It’s been amazing to see his development over the last few years. We’ve said all year long that he is the best offensive lineman in the entire conference, possibly one of the best in the state.” 

Kai shared appreciation for his family for always supporting his dream. “My family has been on my side this whole time, and they have always told me I could do this and anything I put my mind to,” Kai said. “Especially my little brother, Kason. He is two years younger, but has been my hype man during my senior year. He’s also helped me train the last few years and has been with me 24/7. He is just as excited as I am about this.” 

Kai also had words of thanks for his personal trainer, Lalo Contreras. Kai has been working out every day for months to prepare for this. “College football has a different level of players and Lalo has been helping me prepare mentally and physically for the step up,” said Kai. He also thanked his girlfriend Payton Rhodes for always being there to support him. Last, but certainly not least, Kai said none of this would be possible without God. “I thank God for keeping me healthy and bringing me to this moment.”

Kai’s dad, David Hamilton, said the family is overjoyed that Kai has achieved this accomplishment, and they share the same sentiment many others have when describing Kai. “We’re excited because we know how much work he’s put into getting here,” David said. “How many seniors would go to school and practice every day, and then spend two hours training? He’s worked hard for this, and he’s earned every bit of it.” 

What is Kai most looking forward to about his up-and-coming academic and football career? “I feel stable with my academics and fully prepared for classes because of my time at the Collegiate Academy; now, I’m excited to start getting ready for the football season. I’m pumped and ready to get on the field!” Kai is one of five Hope Bobcats to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks; the other four are Tommy Polk, David Johnson, Cody Mosier, and McTelvin “Sosa” Agim. Soon, Kai Hamilton will also be a familiar name spoken all over Hope, across the state of Arkansas, and maybe even throughout the nation. After all, he has already accomplished much at the age of 18, and can proudly say he is an Arkansas Razorback now. There is sure to be more coming from this young man in the future.

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