For two seasons now, Thomas Hammock, a former running back from Northern Illinois University, has aided the University of Wisconsin football team in hopes of building a résumé that will one day afford him the opportunity to lead a team himself. After getting a taste of the world outside of football, Hammock found the lure of the gridiron too hard to pass up. Through a tireless work ethic and love of the game, Hammock is laying the foundation for what he hopes will be a career in coaching.
"The ultimate goal is to be a head coach," Hammock said. "But I have to put in my time and put in the work to get where I want to be. And if it's 10 years, 20 years from now, I'm just going to keep working for my goal."
Hammock had his playing career with the Huskies cut short in 2002 after a cardiac problem halted his physical training. He was never diagnosed with any sort of condition, but was told by doctors a certain area of his heart was thickening.
"I think because of the level of workout I was undergoing for 13-14 years, your heart is a muscle and all that just made it too thick," Hammock said.
Hammock was prepared for a breakout senior season and despite the devastating news, he was able to walk away from the playing field without too much heartbreak. He graduated from NIU a semester early with a degree in marketing. He wanted to go into sales and took a job with Wells Fargo Financial dealing loans.
"Basically I was having a pretty good time," Hammock said of his time at Wells Fargo. "But something was calling me back to football…You know, I never really anticipated coaching, but at some point when I was working a nine-to-five, something just didn't feel right and I wanted to get back and give back to the game that had given me so much."
Hammock had met Badger head coach Barry Alvarez before the 2002 game between UW and NIU. Hammock was traveling with the Huskies despite his inability to play. Michael Turner stepped in for Hammock in the 2002 season and went on to run for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the 24-21 loss to the Badgers.
"Alvarez came up to me before the game and shook my hand and said he was sorry about my situation and he wished me the best," Hammock said. "(Two years later) I asked for an opportunity with Coach Alvarez and he gratefully handed me an opportunity and I just wanted to make the best of it and take advantage of the situation."
In 2003, Hammock came aboard with the Badgers and helped offensive coordinator Brian White set up offensive drills as a student manager. This season Hammock has been promoted to graduate assistant, where he is working with the renowned Badger offensive line, hoping to gain insight into the nuances of line play and to build what he hopes will be a strong foundation for his coaching career.
"They all have kind of taken me under their wing, teaching me little things here and there," Hammock says of the Wisconsin coaching staff. "I'm just trying to learn as much as possible. I'm like a sponge, just trying to soak everything up and absorb everything so when I move on in my coaching career I can have a solid base to go from."
By all accounts, Hammock is a workaholic, tirelessly aiding in practice, motivating the Badger players and filling his constant appetite for football knowledge. Hammock even admits his devotion to coaching has left him with little else to do.
"To be honest I really haven't had a chance to really enjoy Madison," Hammock said. "You work so much and I don't know too many people up here. I'm dedicated to my work, I'm dedicated to working with the Badgers, and I'm giving it everything I have."
Badger tailback practiced once this fall; was asymptomatic until fall camp physical caught a heart…