Dean Hamel was going to be an insurance salesman in Tulsa. A 6-foot-3, 275-pound insurance salesman, and a good one, too. He had the job all lined up out of school, $23,000 a year, "more with commissions," he said.
"I give a real good first impression, even with my size. I pictured people buying insurance from me. 'Geez, look at this guy. I've got to buy insurance from him. I can't say no.' "
But the insurance world eventually lost Dean Hamel.
Perhaps it happened the sunny August day Hamel twisted New York Jets quarterbacks to the ground three times in a scrimmage.
Or, it might have occurred on guard R.C. Thielemann's first day at Redskin Park, when Hamel, in a one-on-one drill, flattened the three-time Pro Bowl player.
Tackle Joe Jacoby leaned over Thielemann. "I guess I should have warned you about him," he said.
The Washington Redskins coaches liked him right from the start, but who was kidding whom? Here was a 12th-round draft pick, the 309th player selected this year, from the great football factory of Tulsa. The Redskins put him at defensive tackle, yet, for all but his senior year of college, he was an offensive lineman.
"God, I hate offense," Hamel says now that he has been given one of the Redskins' 45 lockers, a plane trip to Dallas for the Monday night opener, and the confidence of a grizzled rookie making nearly four times what some young insurance salesman in Tulsa is earning.
"Offensive linemen just do the job. They don't get recognized for it. I don't like that. Defensive linemen are so much in the public eye."
Hamel, 24, is left tackle Dave Butz's understudy, but also may work at right tackle behind Darryl Grant, depending on how much Tom Beasley, who is recovering from toe surgery, plays Monday.
"He will definitely see a lot of action because he's really the guy (at reserve tackle)," Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday. Because of his 4.75 speed in the 40, Hamel also plays on most special teams.
Earlier this summer, Gibbs noticed Hamel's "defensive temperament." A definition: he likes to hit people.
He's had lots of practice, most of it off the field. Bars, high school hallways in Warren, Mich. -- one of Detroit's middle-class suburbs -- you name it, he's sparred there.
"I'm the kind of guy who will not walk away from a fight. Me and my friends used to get in barroom brawls, us five guys versus 20 guys. We'd go into bars and look for trouble. It didn't matter what the numbers were."
He often was expelled from school. "High school was a bad time for me. I'd skip out of whole days. I guess you could say I wasn't an 'A' student. I've always been the tough guy. It was a screwy time."
Ditto college, first at Coffeyville (Kan.) Junior College, where he blocked for Mike Rozier, then at Tulsa.
"Coffeyville was a real small town with a lot of country hicks who did a lot of talking," Hamel said. "I can't handle talkers."
He broke a man's jaw when he was triple-teamed on his way out of a Detroit rock-and-roll bar one summer between college years. "That bar is one of those places where people are just looking for trouble," he said.
That fight scared Hamel enough to settle him down, he said. Yet, when you ask when his last fight was, he answers quickly: "This spring. At a frat party, they asked me to throw some people out. So I threw them out."
Hamel says alcohol wasn't the problem. "I ain't no big drinker. I've just got a real bad temper, and when people looked at me wrong in those days, I'd just go off."
Hamel seemingly was suited for two places on earth. The football field, and the bleachers at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, which often turn into a blue-collar wasteland.
He says he and his buddies were the type of fans who forced Jim Campbell, Tigers president and chief executive officer, to close down the center field bleachers earlier this season due to raucous behavior.
"Bleacher Creatures. That's us. That's why they closed it down. It was fun to go to the games and get noticed way up there."
Hamel wears the intense brow and pudgy face of a fighter, but hardly plays the tough guy nowadays, except on the field. The Redskins noticed his demeanor so quickly that defensive end Steve Hamilton presented him with a nickname early in training camp: "Tas," as in the Tasmanian devil.
When Hamel became the last-picked of four draftees (free safety Raphel Cherry, cornerback Barry Wilburn and center/guard Raleigh McKenzie are the others) to make the team, he realized it was time to change.
"I think I'd try to walk away from a lot of things I would have stayed around for in the past," he said. "Now, I've got to watch what I do. I've got more to lose."