NEWTON, N.C. — Coming from the junior college level, Dean Hamel knows what it's like to be an underdog story.
Now, the former Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys defensive linemen is giving back to the Catawba Valley Community College baseball program.
The Super Bowl XXII champion took part in leading the CVCC baseball team's offseason workouts on Monday afternoon at Henkel-Alley Field at the Hickory American Legion Fairgrounds.
"I just think the big thing is, especially with a junior college, is they've got a little chip on their shoulder," Hamel said. "They got overlooked or something happened with a coach. They just weren't big enough or they grew late. I was in that role. I had that mindset. These guys don't have all the glory. It's not all perfect bus rides and the perfect fields, but to stay with it and keep grinding to have an opportunity to do it at the next level — that's says a lot. That's why I love being around kids like this. They got overlooked, but guess what? Those overlooked guys can be really, really successful."
Hamel and fourth-year Red Hawks head baseball coach Paul Rozzelle are longtime friends, having worked together at Athletic Revolution Gym in Hickory.
"The opportunity to get him on campus at the very minimum to talk to our guys — it's always important to know his story," Rozzelle said. "I've worked alongside him. We've trained athletes together. His intensity and passion for hard work as it relates to athletics is contagious. With that being said, I want our guys to get a small peek into the life of a guy and the attitude and mindset of a guy who overcame every obstacle along the way to achieve success in professional sports."
After growing up and playing high school football in Michigan, Hamel went on to play junior college football at Coffeyville Community College (Kan.).
Hamel's prospects of playing football at the NCAA Division I level or higher were slim, but he remained resilient.
"I had so many people that doubted me through high school," Hamel said. "They said I wasn't big enough, strong enough or fast enough. I didn't listen to any of them. I was going to make it happen."
The 6-foot-3 Hamel eventually worked his way from being an offensive linemen at Coffeyville to a defensive linemen at the University of Tulsa before being selected in the 12th round of the 1985 NFL Draft.
Hamel spoke to CVCC baseball players during Monday's practice, calling himself the "Ultimate Cinderella story."
"I came from that role, and I understand how it works," Hamel said. "It's not fun, but it made me a better man. I'm glad I went that road. It made me understand what it took. In the end, it paid off."
During Monday's workout, CVCC baseball players participated in a gauntlet of exercises, including nine separate stations, which each lasted 30 seconds. These Red Hawk athletes also performed planks in between several of the stations.
Hamel said the workouts are important in not only preparing the Red Hawks athletically, but also mentally.
"Baseball is physical, but the mental side is the biggest part of the game," he said. "If you have any self doubt, it's going to show on the baseball field, especially when you start struggling a little bit and then it magnifies by 10. These little things here that got you through with your mental toughness are what is going to take you to the next level. There is no doubt about it. That's what I think it's so important to be intense and make sure you don't waste your time."
As for how they performed in Monday's workouts, Hamel was blown away.
"It was pretty impressive," Hamel said. "I was really happy with them."
Check out a gallery of photos from Monday's workouts by clicking here.