Lessons learned at Luers lead Hammock to head coaching success at Northern Illinois University

College Sports

DEKALB, Ill. (WANE) – During his playing days at Bishop Luers Thomas Hammock was a regular on the Highlight Zone. Now 40 years old, Hammock is still making headlines – this time as the head coach of Northern Illinois University.

The Huskies knocked off ACC program Georgia Tech in Atlanta by a score of 22-21 to open the season and give Hammock the signature win in his three seasons leading NIU, his alma mater.

Hammock, who graduated from Bishop Luers in 1999, was selected to the North All-Star team as a senior to play in the IFCA’s annual North-South game as a running back. He signed to play college ball at NIU and rushed for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore and junior.

His senior season at NIU started off with a 38-carry, 172-yard, two-touchdown performance in 42-41 upset of Wake Forest in overtime. However, after the game Hammock had trouble catching his breath, which lead to the diagnosis of a previously unknown heart condition, ending his playing career.

With his playing days in the past, Hammock – a two-time academic All-American – decided he wanted to stay with the game of football and become a coach. He took a graduate assistant position at the University of Wisconsin, then returned to NIU as a running backs coach. From 2007-2010 he was an assistant at the University of Minnesota, then returned to Wisconsin as an assistant head coach and running backs coach. After three seasons with the Badgers Hammock turned his attention to the NFL, where he served as John Harbaugh’s running backs coach with the Baltimore Ravens from 2014-2018.

Hammock then returned to Northern Illinois in January of 2019 as the head coach of the Huskies. One of his first moves was to hire a former Bishop Luers teammate, Jordan Gigli, as his assistant coach/defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator. The two were not only classmates and teammate at Luers, but both represented Luers in the 1999 IFCA North-South All-Star Game.

Hammock’s NIU team went 5-7 in his first season, but struggled in 2020, posting a 0-6 record.

However, Huskie fans hope the program has turned the corner with last Saturday’s win against Georgia Tech. Next up, NIU hosts Wyoming on September 11 in the Huskies home opener.

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