Pitt safety Damar Hamlin was placed on the preseason watchlist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is given to the top defensive player in the nation each year. He was one of 80 defenders in the country and just three ACC defensive backs to be named as candidates for the honor.
Overall, the ACC is well represented on the watch list, as Hamlin is one of 10 defenders from the conference included. The others are Syracuse safety Andre Cisco, Duke defensive end Victor Dimukeje, Miami defensive end Jonathan Garvin, Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall, Miami linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, Syracuse defensive end Alton Robinson, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas and Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson.
Hamlin joined Pitt in 2016 as a four-star recruit out of Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic High School, and much was expected from him from the day he set foot on campus. However, he struggled with injuries in 2016 and 2017, playing in just 12 games over a two-year span, and logged his first full season in 2018.
Despite the early setbacks, he enjoyed a breakout season, leading the team with 90 tackles and two interceptions on the season. That included a 14-tackle game against Syracuse and a 79-yard pick six against Albany. For his efforts, Hamlin was recognized as the ACC Defensive Back of the Week after the Syracuse game and was placed on the All-ACC honorable mention list after the season.
Hamlin would not be the first Pitt defender to take home the Chuck Bednarik Award, as former Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald won the prestigious honor in 2013. However, the safety faces stiff competition from within his own conference as well as the from rest of the nation for the award and will have to build on last year’s output to put himself in contention.
Semifinalists for the award will be named on Oct. 29, three finalists will be announced on Nov. 25 and the winner for the 2019 season will be honored on Dec. 12.