v Kansas Legends: C.J. Hamilton - Sports in Kansas
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Kansas Legends: C.J. Hamilton

C.J. Hamilton of Silver Lake in a 2013 playoff game (photo: Matt Gilmore/Kpreps)
By: Sports in Kansas
Dec 12, 2013

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When it comes to coaches in the high school ranks in Kansas, we have had a lot of good ones past and present. Just outside of Topeka in the small community of Silver Lake (population 1,439) on highway 24 is perhaps the most accomplished in head football coach C.J. Hamilton. It's not often the school's high school football field is named after the active coach either. 

Hamilton, the states all-time wins leader in career football wins, just completed his 39th year as head football coach at Silver Lake. His 39th was a special one as the Eagles captured the 3A state title with a dominating 82-38 victory over Beloit. He has compiled an amazing 370-85 record in his career as head football coach for Silver Lake. That's an average of 9.5 wins per year. Think about that, you are only allowed a miniumum of nine games per season. 

Hamilton became the states all-time wins leader back in the 2011 season when he passed Ed Buller of Clifton-Clyde, who had 335 victories from 1940-1984. Notable coaching legends below him in wins are Ed Kriwiel of Kapaun (297 wins), Les Davis of Sedan (316), Dick Purdy of Lawrence (270), Larry Garman of Pittsburg (255) and Roger Barta of Smith Center (323). Chuck Smith of Colgan, who Hamilton beat this season in the playoffs, has 320 wins as an active head coach. That playoff match-up featured the most combined wins (687) by two coaches in the history of high school football in Kansas. Only six high school football coaches in Kansas have went over 300 victories. 

Wins aren't the only thing Hamilton is known for. He has brought eight state championships in football to Silver Lake ('81, '84, '89, '91, '97, '06, '10, '13) and another 10 runner-up finishes in class 3A. Silver Lake has played for the 3A state title in 11 out of the last 12 seasons. Lake also holds state records in all-time state title appearances with 18 and all-time playoff wins with 88 from 1975-2013. 

Another special thing about all of this is that Hamilton himself is a Silver Lake native. Upon his graduation from Washburn, he was encouraged to not go back to his hometown to teach. "It was not recommended by my college advisors going back," Hamilton said. "I had such a positive experience doing the summer camps in Silver Lake coaching with Lon Kruger (Silver Lake alum/OU head basketball coach) that I accepted the job in the fall of 1973." Silver Lake can be very thankful Coach Hamilton went against what his college advisors had to say.

To many who follow high school sports in the state of Kansas, Silver Lake is known as a Title Town of Kansas. It has a very storied tradition in all sports. Many wonder, how does he do this year in and year out? Find out below as we caught up with the states all-time wins leader...


Q&A with Coach Hamilton

How did you get involved in coaching?

I started in 1971 coaching summer baseball at Lake Shawnee and Flag football in the fall.  Lon Kruger and I ran summer sports camps for Silver Lake kids that year also.

What does it mean for you to coach at Silver Lake?

It is very rewarding because when I first started here in 1973 it was not recommended by my college advisors going  back to your hometown to teach and especially coach.  But I had such a positive experience doing the summer camps with Lon that I accepted the job in the fall of 1973.  I guess the challenge is what motivated me to prove to my professors that I could handle the situation.

People wonder how you are so successful every year, explain that to our viewers?

I wish I knew the answer to that.  I am asked that a lot but I am not sure I know.  I truly love working with young people; I have a work ethic that I try to pass on to the kids.  As far as football, I have always watched college games analytically as a coach instead of a fan .  I not only watched how things are done but tried to find out the "why" of doing certain techniques or strategies.  I have great assistant coaches and we have a good plan as to how to peak at the right time of the season.

Are there a select few athletes that stand out over your several years at Lake?

The ones that stand out the most are all the ones that have done special things past high school.  Those who have excelled in the football area are: Tom Matukewicz-Defensive coordinator @ Toledo.  Mark Elliott covers a lot of high school on radio for WIBW.  Troy Biladeau-Head coach of some very successful Arena professional football teams.  Plus there are numerous former players who have coached or are coaching at the high school level-Alan Cunningham(one of the winningest high school baseball coaches in Kansas), Jon McCormick,Garrett Michael, Todd Dain, Rick Horton, Brian Holthus, my sons Travis and Trevor Hamilton.  There are many who are successful outside of football as well.

How special was this years state title run?

It was special because several of our younger players had to step up and fill spots because our senior class is small class numbers wise and also because several key plays were injured during the year.  Also it was special because in the past we have not had to beat a team that beat us during the regular season in order to make it to the finals.  This year we had to beat Rossville a team that beat us in game 6.

How supporting is the Silver Lake Community?

It is a community that supports our athletes but do not interfere with what our coaches here are trying to accomplish.  The parents understand the sacrifices they as parents must make for their children to be successful. 

Outside of coaching, what do you like to do?

I like to be with my family and enjoy my children and grand children.  I also raise cattle and put up hay in the summer. 

Any advice to someone breaking into the coaching scene?

First of all, be true to yourself and your convictions.  There is no one path to success, you must figure out and find the path that works for you, it takes time.  Be a good and honest self-evaluator, it is OK to be your own critic.  Know the "why" as well as the "how" of doing something.

Notable Numbers:

-Silver Lake has 31 playoff appearances with an all-time record of 87-23 in state playoff games.

-Silver Lake has a state record of 18 all-time state title apperances in football. 

-Siler Lake has eight state football titles in 1981, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1997, 2006, 2010, 2013

-Silver Lake has 10 state football runner-up finishes in 1980, 1995, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012 



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CJ Hamilton, Roger Barta, Les Davis, Larry Garman, Chuck Smith, Dick Purdy, Ed Kriwiel, Alan Cunningham, Lon Kruger, Mark Elliott, Silver Lake

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