Feb. 18—JOHNSTON — Johnston Elementary School’s gym may as well have been called Arrowhead Stadium East on Wednesday night.
The school’s gym was full of red, gold and white as family, friends and fans turned out for an autograph signing held by Kansas City Chiefs defensive back and Johnston native Antonio Hamilton.
Hamilton signed T-shirts, posters, footballs and posed for pictures with his jersey from Super Bowl LV.
“It’s a really humbling and joyful experience, just showing that no matter what happened with the outcome of the game people want to come out and show love and show support,” said Hamilton, who signed non-stop for about an hour and a half before he could catch his breath.
“I’ll do anything that I can for my community. To come back and do something like this, this is so small but they treated it like this big, glorious thing. I’m definitely humbled by that, and I appreciate the love.”
Hamilton and the Chiefs came up short against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, falling 31-9, but that doesn’t mean Hamilton’s first trip to the Super Bowl will be an entirely painful memory.
“The experience itself, even though we didn’t get the outcome that we wanted, it was a real glorious moment. That was a real highlight of my career,” he said. “Just making it to the Super Bowl was a crazy experience. You have hopes and dreams of making it, just like making it to the NFL, and then when you get there it’s kind of surreal, like, ‘I was really at the Super Bowl.’
“Just to go out there and play and have the type of support I have from the community, they made it more than a game. The community showing love back to me and being proud that they had somebody from their area representing, that was the real highlight of the moment.”
The gravity of the moment hit him two weeks earlier, when the Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game — on the former Strom Thurmond Rebel’s 28th birthday.
“We went out and did what we did to Buffalo, and then it was, ‘Wow, I’m going to the Super Bowl,'” he said. “We punched our ticket to the Super Bowl on my birthday. That was, like, the best birthday gift I could’ve possibly gotten. It was just extremely exciting, to say the least.”
Hamilton didn’t wait long to try to make a big play in the Super Bowl. After Kansas City forced Tampa Bay to punt on its second drive of the game, Hamilton saw an opportunity to make a move on a live ball that had been touched first by a Buccaneer — he swooped in to pick up the ball and dart forward, but the ball was moved back after officials determined it was out of bounds.
“Once he tapped it back inbounds, I kind of hesitated for a second — and I just took off,” he said, explaining that in that situation the receiving team is free to pick up the ball and advance it. “I tried to get it, get back to my days of being a punt returner. I saw an opportunity to make a play to help the team. That was a free play at no cost, so I just tried to take the moment in.”
Hamilton, who signed in 2016 with the then-Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina State and then spent two seasons with the New York Giants, signed a one-year deal with Kansas City in March.
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