Zaid Hamdan is departing one of college football’s blueblood programs for a regular top contender in the FCS.
On Friday, the former Ohio State defensive tackle announced his decision via Twitter to commit to James Madison.
“Culture was the biggest thing for me,” Hamdan told the Daily News-Record. “I hate losing more than I like winning, so some other schools that offered me weren’t doing the best and I know JMU has a winning culture. So, I’m just looking forward to adding more championships to that.”
Hamdan, a graduate transfer with three seasons of eligibility remaining, said he’ll likely arrive in Harrisonburg not long after this spring’s FCS national championship game, which is being held on May 16. The Dukes host North Dakota on Sunday in quarterfinals of the tournament.
He’ll be eligible to play in the fall and is hoping to see more game action than he did with the Buckeyes. Before joining Ohio State as an invited walk-on in 2018, he was a standout at Mason High School outside of Cincinnati. He earned all-conference, all-region and All-Ohio honors as a junior and senior.
“Hopefully I can get in [games] there this year,” Hamdan said. “But the end goal is to always win championships, and to be a part of that team is a blessing in itself.”
The 5-foot-11, 265-pounder said he believes he’ll be able to bring with him to JMU everything he learned as a member of the Buckeyes. Ohio State earned its way to each of the last two College Football Playoff tournaments and advanced to this past season’s championship game under coach Ryan Day, who replaced former Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer after the 2018 season.
Hamdan was with Ohio State beginning in 2018 through this past campaign.
“You’ve got to embrace and adapt to the winning culture,” Hamdan said, “because if you don’t fit the criteria to be part of a championship team, then you’ll figure it out soon. The weak get separated and weeded out very fast at Ohio State. So, from the moment you come in, the attention to detail, the routines, the habits, how you eat, how you talk, everything is driven toward the team winning, winning and winning and then competing.”
He said throughout the recruiting process, starting when he entered the transfer portal through making his decision, he sensed JMU’s philosophies were similar to those of Ohio State.
His lead recruiter was Dukes defensive tackles coach Marcus Hall-Oliver, and Hamdan said he spoke to second-year JMU coach Curt Cignetti, too.
“Looking at JMU’s program and looking at Ohio State’s program, there’s really not a lot of fundamental differences,” Hamdan said. “Both epitomize hard work and a blue-collar mentality, showing up to work every day with a hard hat and getting after it. That’s how Ohio State is and we’re not pretty boys. We’re just guys who work hard, ball and dominate, and that’s what I loved about JMU. They had the winning culture there and how they conduct their program is very similar to Ohio State, so I look forward to joining that and bringing my own things from Ohio State and adding onto the great culture already there.”
Hamdan said Hall-Oliver did a nice job communicating with him while he was in the transfer portal and that the two connected well with each other.
By joining the Dukes, Hamdan will also reunite this fall with Wayne Davis, who left Ohio State for JMU prior to the 2018 season. Hamdan was an early enrollee that year, so overlapped with Davis for a semester in Columbus.