Based on the notion "it takes one to know one," Northern Illinois University could not have hired a better person to continue the school's reputation for producing 1,000-yard rushers.
Upon returning to his alma mater last March, Thomas Hammock did his research. "You know, (Northern Illinois and the University of Minnesota) have had 1,000-yard rushers the last six consecutive seasons. That's second in the country. (University of) Texas leads with nine straight years. As an alum, I'm proud of that (fact)."
Of course Hammock's expertise also comes from personally accounting for two of those 1,000-yard NIU campaigns (1,083 in 2000 and 1,095 in 2001) in a Huskie career that was curtailed by a potentially life-threatening heart condition as a senior.
The 25-year-old Hammock comes home after two seasons at the University of Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez, working one year as an administrative assistant with the football program and one as a graduate assistant. He initially worked with the UW runningbacks under offensive coordinator Brian White in 2003 and then assisted offensive line boss Jim Hueber in 2004 as the Badgers made Music City (2003) and Outback (2004) bowl appearances.
Despite missing the final 11 games of his senior year while undergoing the battery of tests that led to his medical diagnosis, Hammock ranks No. 8 on Northern Illinois' all-time rushing list with 2,432 career yards and added 12 100-yard rushing performances in 32 varsity appearances.
A preseason candidate for the prestigious Doak Walker National Runningback Award, Hammock suffered from breathing problems and chest discomfort after leading all rushers with 172 yards and two TDs on 38 carries in a 42-41 overtime triumph over Wake Forest University in the 2002 season opener. He became a student coach and mentored Michael "The Burner" Turner during a Mid-American Conference record-breaking 1,915-yard campaign.
A two-time Huskie captain and First-Team All-MAC selection, Hammock also became the NIU football program's initial First-Team College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America pick and First-Team Academic All-America repeater. As a soph, he wound up No. 6 in NCAA Division 1-A scoring (10.7 points-per-game) and No. 12 nationally in rushing (120.3 ypg.), plus tied a league single-game record with five rushing TDs in a 52-35 victory at the University of Akron.
As a prep at Bishop Leurs High School in Indiana, he was picked the Fort Wayne Area Athlete of the Year and led the Summit Athletic Conference in rushing (1,775 yards) and scoring (28 TDs) along with being a First-Team All-Area and First-Team Associated Press All-State pick on a 7-5 Class 2A playoff squad.
Academically, Hammock graduated from NIU in only three and a half years with a bachelor of science degree in marketing (December, 2003). At Wisconsin, he earned a master of science degree in educational leadership and policy analysis. His résumé at NIU also included Third-Team Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sports-Scholar honors by Black Issues in Higher Education (2002) and runner-up for the Playboy Anson Mount National Scholar-Athlete Award (2001-02).
In addition to his coaching duties, Hammock currently serves as the MAC representative for the American Football Coaches Association Division I-A Assistant Coaches Committee.
He is single.
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