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Colorado linebacker Marvin Ham II during spring practice on March 31, 2021.
Colorado linebacker Marvin Ham II during spring practice on March 31, 2021.

Throughout his first two seasons at Colorado, and through the first half of this season, linebacker Marvin Ham II figured his opportunities to play on defense would be limited.

“I know I had to wait my time sitting behind a linebacker that’s up for the Butkus Award, so I was just taking my time and watching what he does,” Ham said. “Now it’s my time and it’s time to dominate.”

With senior Nate Landman, named earlier this week as a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, out with an injury, Ham received his most extensive playing time last week against Oregon. Landman isn’t expected to play Saturday when the Buffs (2-6, 1-4 Pac-12) host Oregon State (5-3, 3-2), either, so Ham is likely to once again get an opportunity.

“I’m really excited,” the third-year freshman said. “I mean, shoot, I’ve been waiting two years for this time.

“It’s just a process and a journey. Staying patient staying focused and keeping your head locked in and just knowing that your time is going to come and when it does come just go out there and dominate.”

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Ham was a four-star prospect coming out of Belleville (Mich.) High School in 2019. He had 108 tackles and five sacks as a senior.

Two years into his college career, Ham had played in five games, but mostly on special teams; he played three snaps on defense in 2020. Through the first seven games of this season, he played a total of 29 snaps on defense.

Last week, however, the Buffs went with a committee of linebackers in Landman’s place and Ham played a career-high 30 snaps, recording four tackles in a 52-29 loss at No. 7 Oregon.

While the defense struggled last week, Ham said he felt prepared because of what he has learned from Landman.

“It wasn’t too fast for me,” he said. “It just felt normal. Honestly, it felt natural. It felt like I’ve been out there a whole season.

“Nate acts like he’s in the game still. Nate’s always out there coaching us, giving us little keys and details, telling us what calls are coming and what plays are coming from offenses and always helping us out in general.”

Although he hasn’t played much since coming to CU in 2019, Ham said he has become a better player by focusing on little things and developing his game in practice. He’s learned from Landman, but also from his father. Marvin Ham was an All-American safety at Kentucky State and played briefly for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. The elder Ham was inducted into the Kentucky State athletics hall of fame in 2015.

“He’s always on my side,” Ham said. “He calls me every single day, gives me little key hints and details and watches my film of practice and stuff like that. He’s just always trying to help me improve to become a better player so I can make it to that next level and do what I need to do. … I love my pops.”

Ham is surely making his father proud now but said he and the Buffs’ defense are also determined to get back on track, especially while Landman is out.

“We all play for Nate,” he said. “That’s our brother.”

Lee Willard was a multi-sport star at Colorado from 1918-22. Willard has been elected to the CU Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2021.

Hall of Fame

On Thursday night, CU will induct nine new members to its Athletic Hall of Fame. The group will also be honored during Saturday’s game.

The 16th CU Athletic Hall of Fame class features representatives from eight different sports, including four former football players: Chris Brown (2001-02), Chris Naeole (1993-96), Mickey Pruitt (1984-87) and Lee Willard (1918-22).

In addition to football, Willard played basketball, baseball and ran track at CU, earning 16 varsity letters.

The Hall of Fame class also includes Donnie Boyce (men’s basketball, 1991-95), Nikki Marshall (women’s soccer, 2006-09), Dathan Ritzenhein (men’s cross country/track, 2001-04), Richard Rokos (skiing coach, 1988-2021) and Jack Ryan (men’s gymnastics, 1966-68).

Notes

Saturday’s game will be the 106th homecoming game in CU history. The Buffs are 64-36-5 all-time on homecoming. … CU head coach Karl Dorrell has never lost to Oregon State, and Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith has never lost to the Buffs. Dorrell is 8-0 against the Beavers (3-0 as a player, 3-0 as head coach, 2-0 as assistant coach). Smith is 4-0 against the Buffs (1-0 as head coach, 3-0 as assistant coach).

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