INDIANAPOLIS – In 38 years, Pep Hamilton has covered a lot of ground.
A high school quarterback who then played at Howard, Hamilton said Wednesday that good coaches were "not-so-good" players, fingering himself with that description.
Hamilton set sail on a coaching career in 1997, spending five years at his alma mater before embarking on NFL personnel and coaching opportunities (including summer internships) from 2000-09.
While in the NFL, he crossed paths with individuals who shaped his career. As Hamilton said the Indianapolis offense this year will be a sum of its parts, so is he with his coaching past.
Hamilton cited influences of Norv Turner, Mike Heimerdinger and Paul Hackett in his career. Working with San Francisco quarterbacks under Turner in 2006, the inquisitive Hamilton availed himself of the chance to study the West Coast brainstorm of Bill Walsh.
"The West Coast offense, I had the opportunity to dig into the vault and watch the original Bill Walsh installation tapes," said Hamilton. "For a former quarterback, it was easy to understand fully what it was he was installing and understand the offense. For the novice, in a lot of ways, it would have been somewhat intimidating."
Hamilton was with the 49ers after serving from 2003-05 with the New York Jets, his first full-time chance as an NFL offensive assistant.
Hamilton's first two years there were under Hackett, while Heimerdinger assumed coordinator duties in 2005.
Hamilton moved to San Francisco and under the guidance of Turner, who had spent very successful years in Dallas.
In Turner's 1991-93 tenure as coordinator, Emmitt Smith was a three-time rushing champion.
The Cowboys were 26-1 overall when Smith topped 100 yards, and the offense featured stars in Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek. Aikman had a 37-11 overall starting record during Turner's years, and Irvin never ranked lower than second in NFL reception yards. From his tight end position, Novacek totaled 171 receptions for 1,739 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Smith and Irvin had 100 yards in their respective areas an NFL-record 20 times in their careers, a total eventually surpassed by Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison (22).
"I would say I took bits and pieces of all the guys that I worked for, their different styles and approaches of the game," said Hamilton. "The one thing that Norv did for me, he had a way of making the game practical for the players."
The proof of Hamilton's learning was his implementation during his 2010-12 time at Stanford.
As a senior in 2011 under Hamilton's tutelage, Andrew Luck completed 71.3 percent of his passes and averaged 12.2 yards per completion. He tossed 37 touchdowns, and the offense set school records with 561 points and 6,361 total yards. The offense rushed 518 times and passed 417 times.
This past year, senior back Stepfan Taylor rushed for 1,442 yards, setting school career marks with 4,212 yards and 21 100-yard games.
Hamilton will merge the elements of an Indianapolis offense that was potent last year under Luck. He wants to create conflicts for opponents with a balanced offense that can attack downfield while controlling the clock in part with a potent ground game.
Now the offensive coordinator in Cleveland, Turner sees a former pupil who is ready for the moment.
"I have always been impressed with his ability and curiosity about football," said Turner. "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 in Indianapolis."