There were many great coaches who made an impact during his illustrious football career. I remember one unlikely individual who probably made a lasting impression on a young Gary Hammond.
Don Morrison may have had the first influence on Gary's football career at the elementary school level. Morrison was the teacher in charge of the boys P.E. period at Sam Houston Elementary School in the late '50's. During football season, he usually let the boys divide into teams each week. This competition is where Gary began showing his early athletic skills and I'm sure Morrison took notice.
Bert Butaud, Thomas Edison Jr. High head coach, quickly recognized his leadership skills as Hammond guided the Falcons as their quarterback for the next three years. After his ninth grade football season, Gary's playing days at Edison came to a close.
In the fall of 1965, athletic director and football head coach Clarence Underwood, would get the opportunity to direct him at the high school level during his sophomore year at Port Arthur's Thomas Jefferson High School. It didn't take long for Gary to take over the varsity quarterback position. He guided the Yellow Jackets to several victories that season. Underwood decided to leave for the University of Kentucky and Francis "Smithy" Hill was named the new head coach in Gary's junior year. Under Hill, Gary would quarterback the rest of the way. He went on to break several state records in running and passing. He was named second team All-State quarterback his junior year and chosen for the Texas All-State team his senioryear.
After high school, Gary was facing a much higher plateau of playing football. The University of Texas and Texas A&M began recruiting him heavily but in the end, he chose SMU. Why, because he was an active member of the Methodist faith. He continued to shine under head coach Hayden Fry. Hammond went on to play in three college all-star games including the East West Shrine game held in San Francisco where he was honored with being named offensive MVP. His athletic ability helped him capture everything college football had to offer and now he was ready to do one more climb. In 1972, Weeb Ewbank and the New York Jets took Hammond in the third round of the NFL draft, but he missed the entire season because of a knee injury. After being placed on waivers, he was picked up by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. Don Coryell would be Gary's final coach. He went on to become one of the most outstanding players in the NFL. Hammond was so versatile, he became one of the few professional players who could play more than one position.
I remember sitting with my dad on Sunday afternoons watching the Dallas Cowboys play. Dad always hoped the Cowboys and Cardinals games would be televised so he could watch Gary play. I would get a phone call, "Gary's playing on television today!!". We saw Hammond make many great catches and punt returns over the years. I believe he was one of the quickest players in the NFL. Dad always said, "He's a joy to watch."
I believe everyone who had the opportunity to see a young Gary play knew he would find his way onto the big stage one day showing the world he had a talent that could compete with the best. He is one of the "good guys" that was able to take advantage of his athletic skills. Yes, we are proud to call him one of our own.... a graduate of TJ, class of 1968! There's no doubt, "he's proud to be a Yellow Jacket!"
Visit these sites on Gary Hammond:http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/H/HammGa00.htm Gary Hammond's Pro Stats
http://www.smumustangs.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/060509aaa.html SMU website - Gary Hammond http://www.museumofthegulfcoast.org/personalities-sports-legends-gary-hammond.html Museum of the Gulf Coast - Sports Legend - Gary Hammond