Sam Hamilton grew up with an adventurous mindset, ready to explore new challenges. Last season, the former Colorado Rapids first-round pick took on the task of playing for an expansion side, New Mexico United. Now in Year Two, he’s ready to take things to the next level.
A native of Evergreen, Colorado and a four-year player at the University of Denver, Hamilton’s love for adventures was born and cultivated in the Centennial State. “I lived in a small mountain town in Colorado,” Sam Hamilton told BGN. “I have an innate love for nature and the outdoors in general. I grew up rafting with my family, skiing in the winters, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, etc.” His professional soccer career has largely taken place in his home state, too. After being drafted by the Rapids, he featured for their first team and on loan with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC of the USL Championship.
In between his two loan stints with Switchbacks FC, he had the chance to play with Phoenix Rising FC in 2017 as a teammate of soccer legend Didier Drogba. Hamilton reflected, “Didier is a different class player and a different class human-being. I learned a ton from him in my time at Phoenix. He treated everyone with respect and would listen when you spoke to him.”
“You could also tell that he genuinely loved football, which I think is ultimately what drove his success. He also worked to bring the team together outside the pitch – taking us to dinner, Diamondback games, and other team events. He was a leader in every sense of the word.”
Hamilton has been able to bring some of those lessons learned on his previous stops to contribute on the pitch for NMU. In league play last season, he completed 87.5% of his passes, made nine key passes, and scored two goals. He also scored the match-winner in the US Open Cup against Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas. “I was so happy to push us through to the next round. That whole match was a demonstration of a cohesive performance. Definitely is (the) highlight of that season,” he said.
New Mexico United made a mark with their excellent fan support and home atmosphere in their debut season and that was not lost on the players. “I still can’t get over how this community embraced us as an organization. The love and continuous support over the course of the year is something that you don’t see in other cities,” Hamilton explained. “We had a roller coaster of a year. It was full of ups and downs, but the support from the fans was unwavering. It was truly humbling. I’m so thankful to be a part of the New Mexican community and am going to do everything I can to bring a championship to New Mexico.
Talking about the anticipation for the 2020 season, he adds, “I’m most excited to build off the foundation that we laid in 2019. We came so far as a group and as a community. But going into that season, we as an organization was sort of looking into a dark tunnel. We had an idea of how the season would go and how the community would accept us, but nobody quite grasped how welcomed we would be. This year, we don’t have that same ambiguity. So I’m excited to go and showcase how far we’ve come.”
Sam also has unfinished business off the pitch in New Mexico as he has not completed all of his outdoor bucket list in the area. “I have gotten out quite a bit in New Mexico. I’ve been all around the Sandia’s (I think the best time to go is in the early morning or at sunset), several different hot springs in the Jemez, camping out in Madrid, hiking in Ghost Ranch, hiked tent rocks, and spent a day at Lake Abiquiu,” he said. “Maybe some other stuff, but that’s just off the top of my head. I want to go to White Sands this year and maybe get up to Taos. Also, I’m looking into buying all the stuff to fly fish. We’ll see.”
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Don’t worry, he doesn’t spend all of his time off the grid. He’s also embraced a lot of what Albuquerque has to offer for food and drinks. Sam said, “I like a good coffee shop or brewery. Some of my favorite spots in ABQ are Marble, Bow, and Arrow, Starr Brothers, Side Track, etc. As far as coffee shops go I like Little Bear, VM, and Michael Thomas. I’m a big fan of Farina and like to go to Salt & Board with my girlfriend. Anything outdoors in New Mexico is pretty awesome.”
With the 2020 USL Championship season kicking off next month, Sam Hamilton will look to navigate New Mexico United through the dangerous terrain of a sophomore season slump. NMU will face fellow second-year side Austin Bold FC on March 7th during opening weekend.