There are times when Shamar Hamilton gets on the football field and he feels like he'd rather be anywhere else.
The game is supposed to be fun, but that hasn't always been the case this spring for Hamilton, a junior outside linebacker who transferred to Colorado from ASA College in Miami.
"There are some days I'm really mad I'm playing football and some days I'll love it and it starts to just flow," Hamilton said.
The roller coaster ride is because everything is new to Hamilton.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who went to high school in Florida, Hamilton is living in a new state, going to a new school, adjusting to new coaches and new teammates. And, on top of all that, he's learning a new position.
In two seasons at ASA College, Hamilton racked up 10 sacks and 65 tackles in 17 games, but did that as a defensive end in a 4-3 alignment, coming off the snap with his hands on the ground. Before going to ASA, Hamilton was a defensive tackle in high school.
At CU, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Hamilton is playing as an outside linebacker in the Buffs' 3-4 scheme. For the first time in his life, he's learning how to play without his hands on the ground and how to not only rush the passer, but drop into pass coverage.
Nearly every day after practice this spring, Hamilton has stayed late and put in extra time to learn the nuances of the position. He feels he's getting better, but said, "I hate sucking."
That's the root of his frustration. With learning comes mistakes, and mistakes have been too common for his liking.
"He's starting from ground zero," said CU defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, who also coaches the outside linebackers. "Everything is new to him.
"He has ability. He's quick-twitch and he's fast off the edge, but he's still in an elementary phase right now as a player. That happens a lot when you transition from one position to another or you come to a new program."
As an outside linebacker, Hamilton will be asked at times to rush the passer. That's what he's used to doing, only now he's rushing from a standing position and from a different angle than he's used to from the past.
"(The pass rushing) is coming natural, but even in this position, the way we do it, it's not the same," he said. "It's at a little bit of a different angle, so it's an adjustment. All in all, I'm most happy with that. That's the easy part. I'm not worried about that."
It's the other aspect of the position — pass coverage — that has Hamilton frustrated and putting in extra work. At ASA, he said there was a play in the defense for him to go into pass coverage, but "we barely ran it."
In CU's defense, the outside linebacker — where Jimmie Gilbert excelled last season as a senior — will sometimes line up in the slot or against an outside receiver. From that alignment, Hamilton will have to be ready to move backwards in pass coverage, or forward in run support.
There's a rhythm to the position, he said, and likened it to dancing the salsa.
"The rhythm, that's what makes everything go," he said. "Once you know that, you know there's no hesitation. That's what I'm trying to get to.
"It's important. I really want to master it, because that's the difference between a pick or a sack."
For now, Hamilton doesn't have the rhythm he needs to excel in the position, but Eliot said Hamilton's effort and focus has not gone unnoticed. Eliot has also noticed that Hamilton can be hard on himself, but added that can be a good quality.
"I think he just needs to continue to pay attention, continue to have the eagerness to get better, continue to work hard and not make the same mistakes twice," Eliot said. "Every time you train a new player, that's one thing you have to harp on. They're going to make so many mistakes until they get it right, but let's not make the same mistakes twice."
Eliot said it's too early to tell if Hamilton will make an impact next season, but believes the future is bright for him.
"I think that someday he'll have a chance to do some good things here," Eliot said.
Hamilton wants that day to arrive quickly and he's doing everything in his power to make it happen sooner rather than later.
"This is D-I; this is what every kid that plays football that learns about it wants to be at, so it's not a game," he said. "It's a serious thing we're doing, so we have to focus. If it came easy, everybody would be doing it.
"I'm going to get it."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.