COLUMBIA, MO. • Mizzou nose guard Dominique Hamilton pulls out his phone and does a quick check.
"Let's see," he said. "Nine hundred thirty-three currently."
That's how many people are following his Twitter feed (@DomHamilton), a very regularly updated look into the mind of the lineman that doesn't have all that much to do with stopping the run.
"A lot of other people, like Wes Kemp and T.J. Moe, have more than me," said Hamilton, a senior from El Paso, Texas. "But they had their accounts during (last) season. I made mine three months ago. We talk about a lot of stuff in the weight room. T.J. got a grand of followers after he had his spectacular touchdown in the San Diego State game."
Competitive as he may be, Hamilton has pretty much conceded defeat in this race. As of Tuesday, Moe had 6,955 followers, Kemp had 4,248. But Hamilton followers may get more bang for their buck. He's already done more tweeting than Moe in less time, and he's earning a reputation for the quality of his messages, whether he's relaying pithy inspirational slogans ("Trust is like an eraser ... It gets smaller and smaller with every mistake"), rules to live by ("Everyone says hate is a strong word but they throw love around like it's nothing") and random opinions on life ("$3.25 for a damn water at The Movies?!!! U can get a 12 pack at Wal-Mart for that").
"He's a very knowledgable guy," said linemate and roommate Terrell Resonno. "Some of the stuff he tweets, I think, man, you've got some good thinking. He's very opinionated. If he doesn't like something, he puts it out there. If he does like something, he'll put it out there."
"I have a lot to say on my mind," Hamilton admitted. "Twitter's a really good way to let it out there. I feel like Twitter is entertainment. I don't take it really seriously. I'm not going to step off the field, go to the bathroom and tweet about that. I'm going to say something people want to hear. It gives fans the depth of who you really are. That's really cool."
If Moe's Twitter numbers jumped after his game-saving touchdown dash against San Diego State, Hamilton is poised for a big jump of his own, despite the relative anonymity of the defensive front line. He was rolling along with a pretty good season last year as a junior until he broke his ankle against Oklahoma. At the time, he had 20 tackles (eight solo) and two tackles for loss in the first seven games. Now his ankle is fine — "I feel 101 percent," he said — and he's poised to have the big season he almost had last year. One publication made him a preseason All-Big 12 choice.
"Dominique is really a great kid," coach Gary Pinkel said. "When he came in, we saw this athlete that had the potential to be really good, but the majority of it was potential. It's remarkable what a good player he has become. I'm very proud of him as he's battled to get stronger, faster, quicker.
"That was a loss for us last year, when you take a guy like that out of the middle. To have him back, you have all that experience, a guy that weighs 305 pounds, he's 6'5", he has a big motor, it's certainly nice to have him back. This defensive line has the potential to be really good. He's certainly a big part of that."
Hamilton got hurt in the Oklahoma game when three Sooners came down on him and pushed him back while his right foot stayed firmly planted on the ground. The snap of the bone was audible, as were Hamilton's screams.
"I think it was the worst pain I ever felt in my life, hands down," he said. "I can't really describe the feeling. I've had a lot of pain in my life. I couldn't breathe, I was hyperventilating, I was sweating real hard even after I took my pads off in the (air conditioning). There were a lot of things going through my head."
None of them were that he was done playing, even when doctors told him it would take him about a year to get back and that only about 65 percent of athletes at all levels play again after an injury like that. Hamilton made quick work of his rehab and, though he missed most of spring practice, was able to persuade the team doctors to let him play in the spring game, even though he figures he was only at 75 or 80 percent of fitness.
Before Hamilton's injury, Mizzou's run defense was allowing 3.5 yards per rush. After the injury, the Columbia Tribune figured the number at 4.6, though Hamilton wasn't the only factor in that.
Still, now he's back and in full health and Mizzou's front line looks formidable. "He actually dominated training camp," Resonno said. "I'm glad he's back."
Whatever happens, Hamilton is likely to have something to say about it.