[Photo courtesy of Marc Hamlin. Hamlin is number 53 in the bottom left.]
On the football field it is imperative to work together as a unit and persevere through the highs and lows. Teamwork is equally as critical in law enforcement, though one false move can result in something far more consequential than a five-yard penalty.
Nobody needs to tell Marc Hamlin about the risks and rewards of the gridiron and service to the community. The former offensive lineman at Marist College is the assistant chief of operations for the Tampa Police Department. While overseeing the department’s patrol function and crime reduction process often has his plate overflowing, there is one item that stands out right now: the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
The time leading up to the January 9 game in Tampa is rapidly escaping through the hour glass. That’s what happens when you are the lead in the police department’s security detail. Time is precious and Hamlin is prepared for sleepless nights and drained cell phone batteries while making sure nearly 70,000 people streaming through the gates of Raymond James Stadium, plus thousands more not attending the game, but involved in related events, are safe and secure. The number of moving parts can be daunting.
“It is my job to balance security and convenience,” said Hamlin, who was on the committee to develop the security plan, something that is two years in the making. “While the event needs to be secure and people need to be safe it also needs to be convenient. People need to get into the event in a pretty timely manner. You have to make everything safe, yet have people get in and out of the venue while enjoying the event and not feeling threatened or insecure.”
As a New York City boy out of St. Francis Preparatory in Queens, Hamlin went about 80 miles north up the Hudson Valley to attend Marist. He was a dedicated criminal justice major who, after redshirting in 1984, played four seasons under coach Mike Malet for a program that was then at the Division III level.
Hamlin played tackle and center while also serving as the Red Foxes’ long snapper on special teams. More than anything, though, it was the discipline, trust and camaraderie of football that helped set the stage for the career he has today.
“Football is obviously a team sport and it is a tenacious sport, and so is police work,” said the husband of Paige and father of three boys. “In football, there are 11 individual battles within every play, especially on the line where you are typically battling the same person the whole game. It is the same way in police work in that you are an individual with a job to do and yet you typically do it as a group. You operate as a unit together and as a squad together. You don’t do surveillance on your own, you typically do not make arrests on your own and you don’t do operations on your own.”
An operation like heading up security for the national championship game requires that the numerous organizations and subcommittees involved are following the same playbook. It certainly helps that Hamlin has experience securing a number of large events in Tampa since joining the police force in 1990.
He oversaw security at Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 and was one of the lead local law enforcement officials for the Republican National Convention in 2012. During the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, of which three games were played in Tampa, Hamlin was the lead at the local level. Each of those events went off smoothly thanks largely to the coordination and cooperation of all concerned.
“You can’t do everything yourself,” said Hamlin. “(The championship game) is a huge event with several ancillary events leading up to it. Things are broken down into different subcommittees. The stadium is one group. There are the downtown venues for parties and fans. You put people in charge and you have to trust that they know what they are doing. You manage those people, but you can’t micromanage.”
The world we live in continues to change and as a result the level of diligence needs to be ramped up more than ever. That’s simply the way things are right now.
“The world has certainly changed even since the last Super Bowl and Republican National Convention that we had,” said Hamlin, whose oldest son, Anthony, played baseball at and graduated from Marist in May and is now in his second month with the police academy in Tampa. “We are going to have a major national event that is very American. There is nothing more American than college football. It is very nerve wracking and some sleepless nights will come with this.”
Hamlin’s coaches at Marist slept easy knowing he was in control on the offensive line and maintained focus regardless of what was reflected on the scoreboard.
“He was definitely somebody that could operate effectively when the chips were down and somebody who maintained a strong sense on the field when things were not going well,” said Mike Hagen, Hamlin’s offensive line coach. “Anybody can look good when you are winning 35-7, but how do you perform when things are rugged and bleak? It’s an old cliché in football, but the measure of a guy is how he performs in the face of adversity and he always did very well in that sense.”
Hamlin, who also has twin boys at Florida State, faced plenty of adversity on assignment one day in 1995 when, while responding to a domestic dispute, a bullet tore through his right forearm. Backup help arrived in 57 seconds, a time frame that felt more like 57 minutes as he bled profusely. Still, there was no time to feel sorry himself and he had to carry on.
While Hamlin, who was very fortunate that the bullet went straight through and did not cause any nerve, muscle or bone damage, would never compare being in the line of fire to battles on the football field, there are parallels that come into play when things are not all too great.
“The pain and the bleeding (from being shot) is kind of like equating it to twisting your ankle on a play, or as an offensive lineman, hurting your hand or having some kind of numbness,” he said. “You get back in the huddle and go again. You have to finish the call, arrest the perpetrator. You weather through it and you go forward, just like playing hurt.”
Since the championship game is college football’s showcase it has a considerable spot in Hamlin’s heart and he is glad to be playing a major role.
“This is very exciting because I love college football,” he said. “Having played, perhaps I have more of a passion for it than the average person, but it is very exciting for me and it is nice to be on the forefront.”