Based on medical evaluations, Northern Illinois TB Thomas Hammock ends playing career



December 23, 2002


DeKALB, IL --- That dream Northern Illinois University football backfield featuring 1,000-yard tailbacks Thomas Hammock and Michael Turner will never happen.

Based on recent medical re-evaluation, plus consultation with head football coach Joe Novak, head athletics trainer Phil Voorhis, and family members, Hammock will hang up his No. 28 Huskie jersey for good and refrain from competing in football due to a heart-related condition.

With school closed for sememster break, Hammock made the announcement Monday (December 23) from his parents’ home in Fort Wayne, IN.

“Medicine is not an exact science,” Hammock said. “It is in my best interests not to play football anymore. This is a long-term situation versus a short-term situation. I am not willing to jeopardize my future. I will miss the game of football and my teammates. Football has been part of my life for a long time. I’ve made friendships that I will have for a lifetime.

“This has been on my mind since I stopped playing after the Wake Forest game. I want to thank my family, the coaching staff, my teammates, and the university community. Everybody has been supportive in every way. The coaching staff gave me a great opportunity. I wasn’t that highly regarded coming out of high school. I really appreciate that and the opportunity to play and receive a good education at Northern Illinois.”

Hammock, his mother, and Voorhis visited cardiovascular specialists last Wednesday (December 18) at the Minneapolis Heart Institute where the two-time First-Team Academic All-America pick underwent a series of tests in September. Voorhis indicated that the original condition---an enlarged muscle mass on the left side of Hammock’s heart---had not changed. The specialists originally thought that holding Hammock out of practice and games would reduce that muscle mass.

“Local and regional heart specialists made this recommendation,” Voorhis said. “It’s unfortunate that Thomas’ career has come to an end. As with all cardiac conditions, it is important that Thomas sought medical advice for the chest pains and breathing problems he encountered. Fortunately, Thomas will be able to lead a normal life with restrictions on competitive athletics.”

After Northern Illinois’ 42-41 overtime victory over Wake Forest University in the season opener on August 29, Hammock (Fort Wayne, IN / Bishop Luers) suffered from some breathing problems and chest discomfort. In that game, the 5-foot-8, 211-pound Hammock led all rushers with 172 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries and earned Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week honors. The performance versus WFU marked the 12th 100-yard game of his career. The next week, Hammock was withheld from practices and started getting medical opinions.

A preseason candidate for the prestigious Doak Walker National Runningback Award and a Street & Smith’s College Football Honorable Mention All-America pick, Hammock came off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing campaigns (1,083 yards in 2000 and 1,096 yards in 2001), made First-Team All-MAC those two years, and doubled as a College Sports Information Directors of America First-Team Academic All-America in those seasons. Since the 1982-83 academic year, only two major-college rushers---Hammock and former Virginia All-America runningback Tiki Barber---had gained 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and won First-Team Academic All-America honors.

“What do you say about a Thomas Hammock, his many contributions, and what he means to our football program and this institution? He accomplished so much on the field and in the classroom here,” Novak said. “Twice First-Team Academic All-America and All-MAC. Thomas had an outstanding career here. He was a great leader and team player. All of us are glad that his condition was diagnosed at the time it was.”

Hammock, a two-year Huskie captain, finished his career with 2,432 career rushing yards in 32 varsity appearances and ranks No. 8 on the all-time Northern Illinois career ground-gaining list. During his career, Hammock produced 12 100-yard rushing performances and the Huskies won nine of those games. As a sophomore, he wound up No. 6 in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1-A scoring with 96 points (10.7 per game), No. 12 nationally in rushing (120.3 ypg. average), and tied a league record with five rushing touchdowns in a 52-35 victory vs. Akron. Hammock gained a career-best 195 yards---including 108 in the final period---vs. Central Michigan in 2001.

Academically, Hammock graduated earlier this month---in three and a half years---with a degree in marketing. He was named a Third-Team Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sports-Scholar by Black Issues in Higher Education (2002) and made national runner-up for the Playboy Anson Mount National Scholar-Athlete Award (2001, 2002). In football, Hammock was NIU’s initial First-Team Academic All-America. As a prep, Hammock was picked the Area Athlete of the Year and led the Summit Athletic Conference in rushing (1,775 yards and 28 TDs on 274 carries) and scoring (168 points) for coach Matt Lindsay as a senior.
He made First-Team All-Area and First-Team Associated Press All-State on a 7-5 Class 2A state playoff team in 1998.

(For further information, please contact Mike Korcek) -30-




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