By RICK PETERSON
For 46 seasons C.J. Hamilton has been hands on with every aspect of Silver Lake's highly-successful football program.
Coaching remotely is not something the winningest football coach in Kansas history ever envisioned as the Eagles prepare for the start of the 2021 season, but Hamilton also realizes he has no choice.
A health battle that is now closing in on 18 months began when Hamilton was seriously injured when kicked by a cow in his right knee while working on the family farm in April of 2020.
The 70-year-old Hamilton, who has posted a 438-95 record at Silver Lake with eight state championships and 18 championship-game berths, has faced a series of challenges since then, including battling debilitating infection over the past several months.
"I got kicked last April, but then this infection started in February this year,'' Hamilton said. "I was back for a while in school and coaching until February when I got sick. When I got sick I just thought I had flu or COVID or something and then they tested my blood and they said, 'Man, you've got a major infection and we've got to get you taken care of now.' In February they took out my knee joint and put in an antibiotic spacer and they took out my shoulder joint and put in an antibiotic spacer.
"I was feeling pretty good in July and I thought, 'Good, I'm going to be ready to go.' I was moving around a lot more, but all of a sudden my knee swelled up and I went in to Dr. (Michael) Tilley and he drew some blood and it was all (infected) and everything else so at that point, at the end of July, he took the total knee out and put a rod in. I've got metal everywhere.''
Hamilton has every intention of returning to the Silver Lake sidelines, but is currently playing the waiting game until he gets the go-ahead from his doctor.
"It's still up in the air and it depends on if I can get rid of this infection,'' Hamilton said. "Right now my timetable is I get my last infusion on Sept. 13th and then they'll evaluate whether they've got the infection taken care of and they'll put the knee joint back in. That's Dr. Tilley's call, so I won't know anything at least until Sept. 13th which direction I'm going to go.''
In the meantime, Hamilton watches Silver Lake's practices on video and is in contant contact with his coaching staff, which includes sons Travis and Trevor as well as assistant Warren Bledsoe, who has been on Hamilton's staff since 1989 and is also Silver Lake's athletic director.
"It's tough, because when I watch film or watch video it's difficult to get a feel for what's going on,'' Hamilton said. "It's one of those things where video can just tell you so much. To me a lot of it is about communication and getting people set up right and knowing their techniques and things like that, so it makes it a little more difficult this way.
"We thought about going in a wheelchair or sitting in the back of a cart at practice, but it's just kind of difficult right now.''
Having said that, Hamilton, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Coach Bill Snyder Family/Sunflower Chapter of the National Football Foundation earlier this year, knows the Eagles are in good hands with his veteran coaching staff, who he meets with on a regular basis.
"Definitely,'' he said. "This has been a pretty stable staff and they're all willing to learn or accept what my philosophies and things are, so that makes it real easy.''
But Hamilton is also chomping at the bit to be back with his team.
"It's just hard not being connected with the kids because a lot of the things that go on in coaching is the contact with your players and the rapport with your players and I'm just basically isolated on a desert island right now,'' Hamilton said.
"It's even going to be harder when the actual games start. I just got done watching the jamboree (from Friday night) and it was difficult to sit here because you want to say some things but there's nobody to talk to but the walls.''