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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


In face of mass exodus, Hammock chooses to stay

As a position coach for Montee Ball, Thomas Hammock helped mold Ball’s 2011 season into a Heisman worthy campaign with 39 touchdowns on the season.[/media-credit]

One year ago, Thomas Hammock was the newcomer on the coaching staff of Wisconsin’s offense – all of his colleagues had walked the halls and sidelines of Camp Randall Stadium for years.

But only a few weeks after that first season ended did Hammock suddenly become the guy with the most seniority in head coach Bret Bielema’s offensive staff.

Before the Rose Bowl had even been played, two of Hammock’s colleagues formally announced their decision to leave the program, starting with then-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who took the head coaching position at Pittsburgh.


By that time, then-offensive line coach Bob Bostad had announced his intention to leave for Pittsburgh as well (although he eventually wound up taking a job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and two more assistants would later leave UW to migrate east with Chryst.

All in all, three offensive assistants settled at Pittsburgh while a fourth left for a job at Arizona State, rendering Hammock as the only carryover into the 2012 season.

“In this profession we understand the business and they had an opportunity to leave for better opportunities or opportunities they felt were better,” Hammock said.

His choice to stay certainly made things easier for Bielema, who was forced to make five hirings – all done by early February. Hammock’s loyalty may not have given him the promotion to offensive coordinator, but there’s no question Bielema poured an extra dose of trust into Hammock, the lone offensive pillar from last year that didn’t fall, this offseason.

Bielema announced in early March that Hammock would take over as the team’s recruiting coordinator, putting him in the foreground of the effort to keep up Wisconsin’s recent title-winning success.

“Anytime you get asked to take on more responsibilities is an honor,” Hammock said. “Just want to make sure we continue to recruit the type of athletes that have helped this program win and do it the right way.”

Enticing job offers are always eating away at coaching staffs when they achieve the level of success the Badgers have recently – winning two consecutive Big Ten titles and appearing in the subsequent Rose Bowls. And Hammock wasn’t excused from the increased interest, either. His stock rose with the rest of them and his phone rang.

Hammock fielded at least two job offers over the course of the offseason, with the most recent calling coming from the St. Louis Rams. In late February, Hammock interviewed for that open running backs position but after being offered the job, he chose instead to stay in Madison.

Days later, Bielema anointed him recruiting coordinator.

“I’ve known Thomas for a long time, so when he came in the door I was ready to give him a lot of responsibility,” Bielema said. “And just the way he handled his business during that transition, you know he had some opportunities to leave us and didn’t waffle at all.

“His role has expanded as recruiting coordinator, and he’s taking that and running with it full go.”

Hammock’s reason for staying isn’t anything complicated: He enjoys working at Wisconsin, and he and his family enjoy living in Madison. A former 1,000-yard rusher for Northern Illinois whose playing career was cut short by a life-threatening heart condition, Hammock began coaching at Wisconsin as a graduate assistant during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

He thrived from the sidelines and quickly worked his way up to being the co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Minnesota in 2010. But after that season, Wisconsin had a seat to fill, and Hammock was willing to take the demotion back down to just coaching running backs in order to be back in Madison.

“I GA’d here and had a great experience and wanted to be a part of this team,” Hammock said. “I like it here, my family likes it here. Last year was the first [time] I had ever been apart of a championship team, and it was a good feeling and I want to continue moving forward in that direction.”

His choice to stay certainly pleased those directly beneath him as well. Last season, an already motivated Montee Ball quickly bought into Hammock’s leadership. And when Ball, a Heisman finalist, was invited to New York for the trophy’s presentation, it was Hammock – not Chryst, the offensive coordinator who had presided over Ball’s entire collegiate career – that joined the running back along with Bielema.

And in the aftermath of the 2011 season, when one assistant coach after another decided to leave the program, Ball admits he became worried that a domino effect would strike Hammock.

But it the end, Ball ended up breathing a sigh of relief.

“To be honest, yeah,” Ball said, when asked if he was concerned about Hammock staying or leaving. “A lot (of coaches) left, it circulated in my mind a little bit.

“But I talked to him and once he made his decision to stay we were all grateful for it because he’s a great person, first off, to be around and also for us running backs, to have him teaching us is something we’re grateful for.”

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