Quindrelin Hammonds may be one of the quietest football standouts in Newton County. And there are at least two reasons for that.
First, Alcovy hasn’t been the most successful program around over the last several years. I won’t bore you with the stats. The lack of W’s in comparison to L’s, particularly in the two years before Chris Edgar took over as head coach, has been well documented.
But here’s the ugly truth too many people in the football recruiting game don’t always like to acknowledge: When your high school football program isn’t good — or even average by their standards — good players on those teams get the shaft, because recruiters feel there’s no need to look their direction.
Such was the case with the Tigers. Pound for pound, Hammonds may be one of the NewRock area’s best athletes. You just don’t hear much from him when he plays on a team that won a grand total of four games in two seasons.
But here’s the other reason. Hammonds doesn’t have gaudy stats. Take last season for instance. Hammonds played a little quarterback and threw for 179 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in Alcovy’s 4-6 2016 campaign.
Then, as both a dual-threat QB and running back, Hammonds rushed for 219 yards on 41 carries with two scores. Then as a receiver, he caught a couple of passes. Then as a defensive back, he tallied 30 tackles, including 14 unassisted.
He also had an interception and four pass breakups, and it’s rumored he even called plays for the defense and drew the chalk lines on the field before games.
Ok, those last two were completely made up. But you get the point. Hammonds didn’t have big stats, not because he lacked big play ability. But because he has so much of it that Alcovy needed to split his time all over the field. And it’s impossible to be a 2,500 yard passer or 1,000 yard rusher when your time is split into so many pieces.
Because of this, Hammonds doesn’t have the luxury of specializing on the football field, and he’s okay with that. Actually, at this point, the senior almost prefers it.
“I’ve kind of made it my thing to where I can pretty much play anywhere,” Hammonds said. “I’ve become known for being that kind of player.”
And it’s starting to pay off for him. That admittance on his part was one of the key things Hammonds said in an almost 30 minute conversation that stuck out for me. The other thing that stuck out is that this quiet Newton County star isn’t really all that quiet.
Hammonds has a lot to say.
About the program since Edgar took over
“So, my first year coming here, it was a completely different program,” Hammonds said. “It was kind of a non-team. The coaching staff didn’t get along as well. There was no connection with the head coach. We just didn’t really feel like a team. But it’s so much different now. Everybody kinda liked coach Edgar. When he had a chance to speak, it was good. People listened. It’s an entirely different atmosphere.”
About his personal nightmare season while playing quarterback:
“My sophomore year I played quarterback,” he said. “And, man, it was not a good year at all. I mean I learned a lot, I will say that. But, you know, the fans aren’t as receptive to losing. And I don’t think they always really understood how hard it was to play that position. But we all made it through anyway.”
About his replacement under center in junior, Cameron Anderson:
“He’s done very well,” he said. “When I was at quarterback, he saw the headaches and things I went through. He stepped in as a sophomore because really nobody else wanted to play that position. He made a lot of mistakes. But he’s learned a ton and he’s grown. He’s a leader. His throws and progressions are a lot better. He’s become a whole other person this year. I think he’ll have a great season.”
It’s pretty hefty insight from a 17/18 year old kid. But perhaps the most poignant thing Hammonds said during our time talking was something that could serve as solid, sage advice for anyone seeking to play college football.
If you’re patient, and you work hard, the right offers will come.
He didn’t say it like that, verbatim. But it was heavily implied as he told a story of relief from getting his first offer from Army.
As I’ve covered Hammonds, I often found myself trying to figure out why he wasn’t getting offers. Even if Alcovy hasn’t exactly been world beaters, Hammonds’ speed, quickness and motor pop off the screen, even in highlight videos.
I figured at least the non-Division I schools would be knocking down his door. But Hammonds told a different story.
“No sir,” he said. “The non-Division I schools were wary of giving me an offer because they felt like the bigger Division I schools were gonna come take over. I got the same speech from all of them: ‘We like you, but we’re not gonna offer you until the D-1 offers make their rounds.”
But up until the Army offer, those weren’t coming either. It’s gotta be hard to be stuck in the middle like that. Too good to get a small school offer. Not seen as good enough to trigger many large school offers.
Hammonds knew all the right things to say, but it was still hard.
“It’s definitely not exactly what I want to hear in the moment,” he said. “Still, I know I have a lot of talent so I try not to stress over offers. I just let it come.”
While offers may not have come, the letters do — and by the score. Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State, Kennesaw State, Furman, Georgia State.
They keep coming. But all interest. No offers.
And that’s why he was so excited when the Army offer came.
It didn’t come as a phone call. It was another letter — like so many others that basically spoke empty promises. Perhaps something in Hammonds didn’t even want to open it and read it. But he did.
“It was after practice, and I was at home doing homework,” he said. “My dad gave me a letter, and when I opened it, it was an official offer from Army. I was like, ‘Whoa.’ At that moment, I posted it on Twitter, and the coach who recruited me, Brent Davis from Army, he contacted me.
“He said I was actually offered months before the letter came. I was just sitting and waiting for the letter.”
Then Hammonds did what so few athletes do while talking to you on record. He became honest — vulnerable — about the stresses and the pressures of the whole college recruiting thing.
“I’ll be really honest,” he began. Then paused a bit. “It does get hard. Because after a while, you kinda want to see some progress. I mean, I’m sitting her like, ‘I’m a senior. I’ve been giving it my all.’ But nothing. Then I hear about all the guys in other areas getting offers, and I know you’re not supposed to care much about it, but you do. Getting that first offer, it promises me that my work is paying off.”
Hammonds said he was so grateful to the Army staff that he literally told them, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity.”
“A lot of schools are not willing to take a chance,” he said.
Now, with offer No. 1 under his belt, and the season less than two weeks away, a couple of solid showings will, no doubt, trigger more offers to come. That’s how the recruiting game works. Often schools don’t “want you” until they see you’re wanted.
But Hammonds says much of the pressure is off now. Even if he gets no more offers, he’s all but guaranteed an opportunity to play Division I college football. Now, he wants to focus on helping Alcovy get over the hump toward a playoff berth. But he also has a desire to allow what he’s gone through help other football seniors — starting with his own teammates — to play pressure free football while being more concerned about embracing a team first approach than trying to impress colleges.
“If I had to work on anything this year, it would be being more of a leader and setting an example,” he said. “We have a lot of talent. A lot of senior talent. But seniors, they often want the offers and want to make their own things happen, make their own plays and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, you become successful when you be a team. When you depend on one another and try to be humble and coachable.
“Everything else sort of comes together after that.”
Gabriel Stovall is the proud sports editor of The Covington News. He can be reached for tips and story ideas at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1, as well as our sports Twitter page @CovNewsSports.