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Horseshoe at Dawn, Pep Hamilton

Each practice day in training camp, catches up with a player or coach. Today profiled at dawn – Pep Hamilton.


ANDERSON – The role of offensive coordinator with the Colts has become one of the most high profile positions among any NFL assistant coaches.

The faces Tom Moore and Clyde Christensen were beamed into America's homes frequently as the Colts won the most regular season games in the league from 1999-2010. 

Seven times in that span, Colts offenses sported a 4,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rushers and receivers.  It is the highest total in league history.

Last year, Bruce Arians achieved a prominent profile by stepping in for Chuck Pagano and helping direct the club to an 11-5 record and a 12th playoff appearance in the last 14 seasons.

Pep Hamilton assumed the role in January, a day after Arians' departure.  He did so with fans' eyeballs peeled and expectant as the Colts aim to remain among the NFL elite.

"I consider myself a football purist," said Hamilton.  "The game is pure.  It's about power, speed and execution.  I like the thought of being able to spend 23 hours a day studying and scheming ball plays and having the chance to pursue the ultimate goal in our business, that's the Lombardi Trophy."

As the Colts forged the league's winningest decade from 2000-09, Hamilton was winding his way through internships, personnel roles and assistant roles with six different NFL teams.

He observed Paul Hackett's influence with the West Coast offense and its technical passing game while with the Jets for three seasons.  In 2006, he learned the aspects of the "digital system" with Norv Turner in San Francisco.  It was a more vertically-based attack than the West Coast offense. 

Hamilton worked in two places – Stanford and San Francisco – where the legendary Bill Walsh did, and inquisitive Hamilton visited the 49ers' vaults to study tapes of how the offensive guru installed his principles.

Hired at Stanford by Jim Harbaugh in 2010, Hamilton was receivers coach, moving to coordinator when David Shaw succeeded Harbaugh a year later.

"The first thing you have to know about Pep is he's had a variety of experiences and some really, really great teachers," said Shaw.  "It's hard to pigeonhole him.  Pep's been influenced by all of those.  For him, it goes back to what can players do?  What do they understand?  What can they be good at?"

Hamilton has resisted any label in Indianapolis, preferring to call this the 2013 Colts offense under Chuck Pagano.

Moore and Christensen oversaw offenses skewed greatly to the pass.  From 1999-2010, the Colts rushed but 42 percent of the time, often using multiple-receiver formations in short-yardage situations. 

The Colts topped a 4.0 rushing average in five seasons during that span and but once averaged more than 120 rushing yards per game.

Not caught up on percentages as much as the ability to do both effectively, without tipping opponents, Hamilton will put the ball in playmakers' hands. 

"I know Pep's a smart guy," said Coby Fleener who now plays with Hamilton in a second location.  "He'll likely bring in a little more variation than we had last year.  I think it's a great opportunity for all the tight ends.  It's an offense that's won.

"Obviously, he's a run-emphasis guy.  I think he doesn't see that in the play-calling.  He's an awesome coach all-around."

It is an offense that was diverse at Stanford.  While wide receivers caught more passes than any unit in his two seasons as coordinator, tight ends combined for 179 receptions, while running backs totaled 98.  Fullbacks even had 53 receptions and six touchdowns.  (For years, Indianapolis largely eschewed traditional fullbacks – there are two on roster now.)  Tight ends by a two-to-one margin (30:15) had more scoring receptions than wide receivers.

In Hamilton's three years at Stanford, including two with Luck, the Cardinal ran 57 percent of the time.  In Luck's senior season, he completed 71.3 percent of his passes (12.2 yards per completion) and Stanford ran 54 percent of the time while averaging 210.6 yards per game.

Hamilton said on the first day of camp the offense would be detailed and exact, one aimed at not wasting plays.  He did not define a "big play" necessarily as one that gained "chunk" yardage.  A big play to Hamilton could be third-and-short.

Pagano stressed in his initial 2012 press conference the need to run the ball and stop the run, saying the Colts eventually would look like AFC North teams. 

Pagano holds true to the philosophy today and says he will do so as long as he is in the position he holds.  For that reason, Hamilton seems the perfect.

"He's got a great football mind.  We're like-minded in the fact that he loves to run the football and thinks you have to be able to run the football," said Pagano.  "I've said that from day one since coming here.  He'll take his calculated shots down the field.  He's going to protect the quarterback and make sure he's upright.  He's going to protect the football. 

"Pep's got a wealth of knowledge.  He's a bright, bright football coach."

A mandate when Manning arrived was to protect him.  Indianapolis went from 62 sacks in 1997 to 22 in 1998.  For many seasons during his tenure, Indianapolis led the league in fewest sacks.

Luck was leveled 41 times in 2012 and hit and hurried numerous other times.  He said this week that some of those were not related to line play and that he could do a better job himself.

The Colts head into week two of training camp installing more pieces of the offense.  The team is varied in its look on the practice fields with formations.  Luck is orchestrating the process, and every player is involved.

Behind it is the former collegiate quarterback who has cut his teeth to get to this point.  Shaped by experiences and intellect, he employs his own style.

"Pep's a great guy, a teacher," said Dwayne Allen.  "He's very similar to our teacher last year in Bruce Arians.  The offense is very similar.  Saying that, Bruce and Pep Hamilton are two different guys.  The play-calling is night and day.  We want to be a physical team.  The way Pep goes about coaching us, we see it.  It's very transparent that he wants us to be physical and that we want to run the ball.

"Bruce was very explosive.  Pep is more passive.  It's more of a humor kind of passive.  He doesn't cuss you out on the spot.  He'll just say a little joke to knife you in the side."

Said Turner, "I have always been impressed with his ability and curiosity about football.  He has always had the drive to continue to learn and grow in the game.  I had the opportunity to see that when he was at Stanford, and the way he coached there.

"He's gone through the process to get to this point and has done all of the things you need to do.  Now it's his time to do it in the NFL.  He's got a good understanding of this offense, and I expect that he will have great success."

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