Bryan Hammond shows up strong during spring camp

Fullback Bryan Hammond raised some eyebrows during the first few days of Navy spring camp when he broke off a few long runs. The rising junior attracted further notice when he picked up a blitzing linebacker during a passing drill.

"All of a sudden, the kid started showing up on tape. He kept stacking one good practice after another and built himself up block by block," Navy fullbacks coach Mike Judge said.


Hammond checks in at 5-foot-10, 206 pounds, but showed the coaching staff he could play much bigger than his size. A real eye-opener came when the Texas native stood up a defender in pass protection.

"One of the linebackers came on a blitz and all of a sudden Bryan steps in front of him, plants his feet in the ground and drives the guy backward," Judge said. "He showed some strength we didn't know he had. We knew he was a strong kid in the weight room, but hadn't really seen it translate to the field."


Hammond made a quantum leap up the depth chart over the past four weeks, going from afterthought to third string. That made the current sophomore an easy choice for the Admiral Mack Award, which is presented to Navy's most improved player during spring practice.

"From where Bryan started on the depth chart to where he finished was a major jump. I don't think anyone has ever done that at the fullback position before," Judge said. "I'm proud of Bryan and excited about the way he went about his business. The kid had a great spring camp and put himself in position to contribute."

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo announced the Admiral Mack Award winner during a team meeting held in the Bellino Auditorium on the first floor of Ricketts Hall. A video of the presentation shows a sheepish Hammond step forward to accept the hardware.

"It was definitely a shock. It was a blessing to know that all my hard was being recognized," Hammond told The Capital in an interview on Friday.

Hammond didn't show much during training camp last August and wound up spending a second straight season on the scout team. He was one of four fullbacks that played in junior varsity games along with classmates Mike Martin and Akili Taylor and plebe Myles Benning.

"I made a lot of progress during the offseason. I really got into my playbook so I would know what I was doing at all times. I didn't want to have to think about anything out on the field," Hammond said.

With the clock ticking on his collegiate career, Hammond also brought a sense of urgency to his second-to-last spring camp.

"Coming into spring ball, Coach Judge said 'Don't count your reps, make your reps count.' I tried to take that type of mindset: To treat every rep like it was my last," he said.


Hammond was a three-year letterman in football at The Colony High School, located in the suburb of Dallas of the same name. He was recruited by assistant Mick Yokitis and chose Navy over service academy rival Air Force.

"It was a hard decision between Navy and Air Force. I liked the culture here at Navy. It just felt more like home," said Hammond, who earned honorable mention All-State and was the District 9 4A Offensive Most Valuable Player as a senior.

Hammond played tailback in an I-formation offense at The Colony and admits it took time to adjust to playing fullback in a triple-option system. "Running the triple-option offense is a lot more detailed. Every little thing is so important," he said.

The Admiral Mack Award was initiated in 1976 and is named in honor of the Naval Academy superintendent from 1972-75. Vice Admiral William P. Mack was a strong supporter of the school's intercollegiate athletic program.

Hammond is just the second fullback to receive the award in the 42 years it has been given out, joining Bert Pangrazio (1988).

"It's a proud moment for our position group to have someone recognized like that," Judge said. "Bryan came with a great attitude and got better every day. He was very deserving of this special honor."


Returning starter Chris High remains atop the depth chart at fullback while rising junior Anthony Garguilo solidified his spot as the backup. Hammond overtook Taylor and several others to emerge from spring camp at No. 3.

"I don't think this changes our expectations going into fall camp. Like everybody at the position, Bryan still needs to improve and become a more complete player," Judge said.

"There may be more of a sense or urgency for Bryan now that he knows he has an opportunity to get into the rotation."

Receiving the Admiral Mack Award does not necessarily predict future success. Some winners have gone on to enjoy outstanding careers while others were never heard from again.

"I want to keep the same mindset that I had going into this spring — that I have to work harder than everybody in order to get noticed," Hammond said. "Hopefully, I can keep this momentum going into summer workouts then come back in August and keep attacking things."