CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. — When DaeSean Hamilton was a kid, he and his brother Darius were nearly inseparable.
Darius has non-verbal autism, and DaeSean took it upon himself from a young age to serve as Darious' caregiver. From the age of 7, DaeSean helped Darius get ready for school, eat his breakfast and get on the bus.
When they got home, they again spent most of their time together.
But while they were at school, things were different.
In the northern Virginia school system that DaeSean and Darius attended, students with disabilities were taught in different classroom than students without special needs. And though DaeSean, as he got older, did his best to use his lunch breaks and elective periods to spend time in his brother's classroom, the separation was less than ideal.
That, in part, is what has drawn Hamilton so much to the Sewall Child Development Center.
Sewall, which is celebrating its 75th year of operation, aims to create classrooms that are both inclusive and diverse. In short: Students with special needs learn alongside students without disabilities.
Hamilton visited a Sewall school in mid-April, and he became intrigued with a concept that he says would've greatly benefited him and his brother.
"I got introduced to them [and] got an idea of exactly what they do at the school," said Hamilton on Friday before he delivered the keynote address at Sewall's Champions for Children luncheon. "They're all inclusive for kids that have special needs and kids that are without disabilities. And I thought that was really interesting and eye-opening. It was really nice to see a different aspect of things, a different type of schooling that does things like that for inclusive purposes, specifically.
"Coming from where I'm from in Virginia, the special needs classes and the kids that don't have disabilities, they're all separated and they're all on their own types of schedules. Seeing something like this is eye-opening."
In his address, Hamilton shared the value he's gained from serving as one of his brother's caregivers over nearly two decades.
The brothers have grown together and adapted as Hamilton left for State College, Pennsylvania to play for Penn State.
When Hamilton played for the Nittany Lions, Darius would be at nearly every home game with the rest of Hamilton's family. And though Darius didn't always show interest in what was going on down on the field, he knew he needed to be there for his brother.
"He doesn't know who the heck I am in a helmet," Hamilton said laughing. "He's just at the games because he feels like he needs to be there. … He enjoys football games because he enjoys getting loud with the crowd. … When he's sitting there at the games, he's not really paying attention and noticing what my number is. He just knows that, 'My brother's out there somewhere, doing whatever.'"
Since Hamilton was drafted by the Broncos in 2018, it's become harder for him to get home to see Darius. Plane rides are more difficult than the drive from northern Virginia to Pennsylvania, so his family chose to visit at Christmas instead of making 10 trips out during the season.
Hamilton, though, hasn't let the distance define his relationship with his parents or Darius. Hamilton has flown home on several occasions this offseason, and he said he talks on the phone with his family every day.
That way, Hamilton said Friday, Darius can maintain that connection they've long cherished.
That bond between Darius and DaeSean didn't take long for Hamilton's teammates to notice. Before Hamilton even arrived in Denver after being drafted, wide receiver Tim Patrick had already watched an NFL Network package on DaeSean's relationship with Darius. Courtland Sutton saw the piece soon after.
"I actually watched the story about him and his brother when he was at Penn State, and that's how I kind of got the vibe," Sutton said. "And then being around him more, I really got more information about how much his brother meant to him and also just his family in general."
As Hamilton shared Friday at the luncheon that kicked off Sewall's "We Are All Better Together" fundraising campaign, the perspective he's gained over the years has been invaluable.
For one, Hamilton knows that he's lucky to be able to play professional football — and he can't help but imagine what his own brother's athletic success could be like.
"The things that I'm doing — the things that I'm blessed to be able to do — I know [that] me and my brother come from the same genes," Hamilton said. "So he could possibly be an even better football than I was or an even better basketball player. I know in his mind, he would definitely love to do half the things that I've been able to do."
More importantly, though, Hamilton's relationship with his family provides a course for him to follow, no matter if the Broncos are in the midst of a winning streak or a losing skid.
"There's a lot more things that are going on outside of football," Hamilton said. "There's a lot more things that can happen. There's a lot of people that really don't see football players outside of the football field and the football spectrum. But this is something that's always kept me grounded and is close to home for me.
"I'm just giving back to something that's really near and dear to my heart. It's really special, like I said, and really just opens eyes for a lot of people."
For more on DaeSean's relationship with his brother, click here.