The dadcraft Life: How Ben Hamilton protected Broncos quarterbacks and dominated at home at the same time. Hamilton and his wife, Jeanne, have five kids. They describe their life as “loud and hectic,” but they’re happy. And, they’re not alone. Surprisingly, parents like the Hamiltons, with four or more kids, are happiest.
You played a decade in the NFL as an offensive lineman. For those that don’t closely follow the NFL: what made you such a successful professional in a really tough league?
Luck. My father played professional football for ten years. I saw what it took to be successful. I was fortunate to play ten years: Nine for Denver, one for Seattle. I never saw myself as having all that much talent. But, I outworked my opponents.
Could you share with us a bit about your family life?
I’m married to Jeanne and we have five kids, aged between 5 and 12. We have lots of kids. They keep us very busy.
Aren’t you crazy? Do you know where kids come from?
I love it. Our lives are loud and hectic. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. My wife and I both wanted a big family. There are certain moments that are hard. We have a loud, chaotic house. And, we love it that way.
How did you balance being a dad with being a professional athlete?
It was tough. I was one of the few people who had to work both on Christmas and Thanksgiving. I would bring the kids with me to the locker room whenever it was appropriate. I had the kids tag along with me after games and at practices. My wife and I both looked at the crazy football schedule and knew it was temporary. We made the best out of it.
My teammates loved when I brought my kids around. And, they would always prank the kids. They would tape them up on the wall and throw them in the bathtubs. The kids loved it.
In your business, you probably saw a lot of guys both struggle and thrive as fathers. What did the best dads do?
The dads that thrived prioritized their kids. They recognized family would be there after football ended.
Mike Shanahan was my coach for most of my career. He was great about creating space for fathers. He regularly allowed kids to participate. That wasn’t true across the NFL. Mike was great about making families happy and central. I’m grateful for his leadership in that way.
You made a big jump from playing in the NFL to going back to school to get your Master’s degree to teaching high school math. Did you always want to teach?
When I was finished playing football, I initially just sat at home and watched TV. That lasted for about six months. Then my heart started to get tugged. I sensed I could be a mentor and teacher. I had a friend who recruited me to come work with him in the juvenile hall. Through that experience, I decided to go back to University of Denver to get my master’s degree in education. Now I teach high school math.
We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?
I involve my kids in my life. Even if I’m going to fix the garage door, I try and always bring my kids with me. I love to take my kids to Home Depot. It might look on the outside like a chore, but, they love it. And I love it. Fifteen minute rides to and from the hardware store create opportunities to meaningfully connect. It’s not always the big moments–the water park or vacations—it’s often those smaller moments.
We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?
Before having kids, I was really a selfish person. Caring for someone else demands sacrifice. It started with getting married. But even more, when I started having kids, I started becoming less selfish. Fathering made me really consider others. Before having kids, I was about what I wanted to achieve, rather than others.
We always ask: What is your favorite activity to do with your kids?
Because we live in Colorado, we love doing 14ers [Colorado slang for 14,000 foot mountain peaks]. We go on these long hikes together. We go up to the top of mountains. My youngest hasn’t gone yet. But, when taking my older kids, electronics are off (They don’t even work up there anyway.). We go early in the morning, when nobody else is on the mountain. There’s nothing else to do but walk and talk. It gives me chance to get to know them better. We can marvel at God’s creation. It’s been one of my favorite things.
Postscript: Check out our interviews with other great dads, Patton Dodd and Xianyi Wu.