Hamilton, Ringo two of a kind on, off the field for Cajuns
In their fourth year now sharing a small space, much has evolved.
When Christian Ringo and Justin Hamilton were new roommates in college, for instance, the TV was old-school and the Ragin' Cajuns hadn't been to a bowl game since 1970.
The year was 2011, and the two were UL freshmen.
"Juice (Hamilton's nickname) used to have little box TV – you know, a little, old TV," Ringo said. "I guess he put it to rest."
R.I.P., tube TV.
Three straight 9-4 seasons and three New Orleans Bowl victories later, Ringo has a flat screen. He shares it, too.
"I put the TV in the middle of the room," Ringo said.
Hamilton and Ringo have come quite a long ways too, too, in their short stay together at UL, going from relatively little-known freshmen from Mississippi to starters living rather large on the defensive line in Louisiana.
Ringo is UL's top tackler on the line this season with 13 total stops including 5.0 tackles-for-loss, and Hamilton has another eight tackles including 2.5 TFLs for the 2-3 Cajuns as they prepare to play in an ESPN2-televised game Tuesday night at Texas State.
It's not just work in the trenches, though, that ties the two together.
"We been roommates since we got here," Hamilton said. "It's just something that's a great thing, you know? We have a great chemistry."
"Those are the type of teammates you'll be seeing every summer, grilling out, ready to get your families together once a summer, regardless of how much distance is between you," UL head coach Mark Hudspeth added. "They'll stay in touch, just like I stay in touch with a lot of my former teammates on a regular basis."
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The two have known each other since they were sophomores in high school, Ringo at Jackson's Forest Hill High and Hamilton at Natchez High in Natchez.
They took part in the same football combine then, and later got to know each other a bit when both were throwing shot put in some of the same high school track-and-field meets.
By the end of their senior seasons the two were teammates – and suitemates – on Mississippi's side in the 24th annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.
When Ringo informed Hamilton he intended to sign with the Cajuns, the latter followed form a short time later.
"When I told him I committed … he was like, 'Lafayette,' " Ringo said. "That kind of helped him. That's his words."
Ringo decided then that he wanted Hamilton by his side for the ride.
"Actually," he said, "I told the coaches I wanted him to be my roommate."
Cajun coaches didn't mind at all.
"I think anytime you … develop a relationship like that, that you always tend to hold one another accountable, or you have the feeling that you don't want to let people down," Hudspeth said.
"Sometimes, though, the players that don't have those types of relationships sometimes are the ones that don't do as well.
"So," he added, "it's important that these guys develop good relationships with their teammates and have some close friends and some mentors."
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Ringo and Hamilton have been together through thick and thin, switching dorm buildings once but always sharing a room in Lafayette.
The 6-foot-2, 310-pound Hamilton is the outgoing one, while 6-1, 277-pound Ringo is more of a quiet homebody.
"Juice stays on the move," Ringo said. "When it gets to a certain time, I just like to be isolated in my room.
"Two different people," he added. "They say two different people get along best instead of having the same personality."
The TV that ties them also makes it easy to tell them apart.
"If he's watching what he's watching, I'll watch what he's watching," Ringo said. "And if I'm in there watching, he'll learn to like what I like."
If one is playing a game on the flat screen, it's bound to be Ringo.
"I'm not really a gamer," Hamilton said.
Which is why it's easy to understand which of Ringo's habits perhaps gets under Hamilton's skin most.
Nearly four years together, after all, is bound to produce at least a pinch of disagreement.
"When he's in there looking forward to watching TV, I'm probably in there playing a game," Ringo said. "He's like, 'Man, you stay playing the game.'
"His (biggest irritating habit) to me is when he gets on the phone, the volume will be so loud at night. That's the only thing that annoys me."
Beyond that, though, the bond perhaps explains why the two perform how they do.
They talk in their room. They talk in meetings. They talk on the practice field. They talk on the sideline too.
When they're in a game together, though, there isn't much time, or even need, for words.
"It pays off, definitely," Ringo said of their experience together, "because all we need is a call and we just go.
"I don't have to look at him for no checks or (anything). We just line up, and we can play. They give us a call, we just run it. That's the chemistry we have."
To say the two have helped each other on the field a lot doesn't do the reality justice.
"That goes beyond 'a lot,' " Ringo said, "because I know everything about him and he knows everything about me.
"We just line up and run a play, and I can trust him, and we have that confidence in each other to trust (he'll be) where he needs to be and trust (I'll be) where I need to be."
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Hamilton played for the Cajuns right away, and was starting by the end of a freshman year in which he had two sacks, including one in UL's New Orleans Bowl win over San Diego State.
Ringo took a bit more time to get going, but wound up playing in eight games as a freshman, recording 2.5 TFLs including 1.5 sacks.
"We didn't play that much together (then)," Hamilton said, "because it was like the coach wanted an experienced guy out there with us."
That changed, though, because of personnel matters in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl.
Since then they've been staples together, doing what they must individually while also watching out for each other.
"Sophomore season it just took off," Hamilton said. "Coach Edwards (Tim Edwards, UL's defensive line coach) did a great job of coaching us up and getting ourselves prepared for whatever we were gonna get ourselves into.
"And we just embraced it. We took coaching, and we became successful."
After New Orleans Bowl wins over East Carolina in 2012 and Tulane last season, Hamilton was a preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selection earlier this year.
Ringo, bothered by injuries throughout last season, was the same in 2013.
"It's just a present, to know that my back is covered," Hamilton said.
"I know that he (Ringo) is gonna take care of anything in the middle, and if I force it from the outside that he's gonna take it, and if he forces to that outside I'll be back and be out there for him.
"We're doing a great job anchoring the line, and he's does a great job with everything he does," Hamilton added. "He's explosive, he's quick, he's strong, he's powerful. I mean, there's just so much quality that he has – and for us to have that chemistry, it's just enough to help take the team to the next level."
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When it comes to Ringo's and Hamilton's relationship, however, there may not be another level. They may have already reached it.
They're friends for life, both agree.
"Four years strong," Ringo said. "I can't get a better friend, brother like, person like, Juice.
"Juice has always got a friend in me," he added. "That's gonna go beyond college and beyond what's next in our lives."
As different as they may be, after all, there really is plenty of common ground. That includes the ground each is proud to claim.
"Mississippi is the main thing, you know?" Ringo said. "People from Mississippi – we don't have much in Mississippi. So, we care about our state. It means something to us."
Old box. Flat screen. It really doesn't matter much, one way or the other.
"Half the time the TV isn't even on," Hamilton said. "If it is, we're not really watching it. We're probably asleep – or I'm probably gone somewhere."
And Ringo? He's got the lights on.
UL at Texas State
Game: 7 p.m., Tuesday, in San Marcos.
Radio: 107.9 FM / 1420 AM.
Records: UL 2-3, 1-0; TSU 3-2, 1-0.
Last year: UL won 48-24.