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New OLB Followed in Footsteps of Legendary ‘Mean Joe’ Greene

The Green Bay Packers plucked Ladarius Hamilton off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad to fill Za'Darius Smith's spot on the roster.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – With outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith placed on short-term injured reserve on Friday, the Green Bay Packers signed Ladarius Hamilton off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad.

Hamilton, a first-year player from North Texas, was on the practice field on Friday.

The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder went undrafted in 2020 and spent his rookie season on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad. Dallas released him after this year’s draft and he was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hamilton failed to make the Bucs’ roster but was signed to the practice squad.

As a senior, Hamilton recorded 8.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses and one forced fumble. He finished his career tied for sixth in program history with 17 sacks and added 28.5 TFLs.

At Corrigan-Camden High School in Corrigan, Texas, he was an offensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, tight end, long snapper and, at times, kicker.

“When recruiters came in, they kept asking, ‘Do you think [Hamilton]’s an inside linebacker, outside linebacker or defensive end?'” C-C coach Seven Armstrong told North Texas Daily. “I basically told them he could play where he was told to play. I thought he would be a good pass rusher and evidently he is.”

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The Green Bay Packers have six more games until the bye, starting with Washington on Sunday and then a five-game gauntlet.

In 2018, North Texas unveiled a statue to honor Hall of Famer “Mean Joe” Greene. That week, Hamilton was given Greene’s retired No. 75 jersey to wear against Louisiana Tech.

“When they first told me [Greene] said I could wear the jersey I was like, ‘This has got to be a joke, right?'” Hamilton told North Texas Daily. “We get to the game and I put it on and I’m wearing the jersey just standing there like, ‘This is crazy.’ So, I go out and I see he’s sitting there by the gate and he tells me, ‘Man, just relax, I’ve had a lot of good games in that jersey and I also had some bad ones, just go out there and play.’ So, that kind of eased the nerves and the tension of the game but at the same time, this is Mean Joe’s jersey so it was definitely a great experience and a huge honor to wear that jersey.”

Hamilton isn’t exactly replacing a legend like Greene, but Smith is a two-time Pro Bowler with 26 sacks over the past two seasons.

“We’re going to have to shut him down for a while,” coach Matt LaFleur said before Friday’s practice. “It’s a matter of do you keep him in a limited role or do you shut him down for a while and try to get him healthy and get him up to the snap count that we’d like him to be (and) just like he’s been in the past, because he’s such an impact player.”

Hamilton, who had one sack this preseason for the Bucs, will join starters Preston Smith and Rashan Gary and backups Jonathan Garvin and Chauncey Rivers on the depth chart. General manager Brian Gutekunst grabbed Hamilton rather than promote Tipa Galeai off the practice squad.

“I had to work hard at Corrigan. Going into North Texas I wasn’t the best player heading into there,” he told KLTV.com after joining Dallas. “I had to put in work to be the player I am today. It has to be the same thing when I step on the Cowboys practice field. I am ready to prove I belong.”