NIU hires Thomas Hammock as new football coach

James Krause

NIU announced Friday the hiring of former Baltimore Ravens running backs coach Thomas Hammock to be the 23rd head coach in program history. The 37-year-old graduated from NIU in 2002 with a Bachelor’s degree in marketing.

Hammock’s hiring is following former head coach Rod Carey’s departure to coach Temple University. He was introduced at a press conference Friday morning at the Yorden Center.

“This has always been my dream,” Hammock said in his remarks Friday. “When I was a graduate assistant at Wisconsin, I said ‘I want to be the head football coach at Northern Illinois University.’ I know what Coach [Joe] Novak did for me is what I wanted to do for others.”

Hammock was the starting running back for the Huskies from 2000 to 2002, rushing for 2,432 yards and 25 touchdowns in his collegiate career. His playing career was ultimately cut short due to a heart condition just one game into his senior season.

“When I was a senior I didn’t have my moment of senior day,” Hammock said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to go out and honor my parents. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Health issues didn’t keep Hammock away from the game, and he began his coaching career as a student coach during his senior year. During that season, Hammock helped NIU running back Michael Turner set a then Mid-American Conference record with 1,915 rushing yards in the season.

Hammock’s success at NIU doesn’t stop there. During another stint as running backs coach, Hammock tutored Garrett Wolfe to an NCAA-best 1,928 rushing yards in 2006.

Related: Carey to coach at Temple

Hammock spent four seasons at the University of Minnesota and three more at Wisconsin before landing his first professional coaching job as running backs coach of the Ravens in 2014 under Super Bowl winning coach John Harbaugh.

Hammock said coaching in the NFL taught him to make the most out of his players, a lesson he hopes to put to good use at the college level.

“Being in the NFL, it teaches you a lot of things,” Hammock said. “You got to optimize your personal and we’re going to be a player driven system. We’re going to evaluate that players in the program and make sure we put them in the best possible situation to be successful.”

Athletic Director Sean T. Frazier spoke at the press conference Friday, saying the process of hiring a new head coach has been hard, but the results have made it worth it.

“It’s just been so emotional,” Frazier said. “You get to a point where you’ve done so much and you’ve gone through the process to get the guy you want and to get the guy to come back home.”

Frazier, who worked with Hammock during his time in Athletics at Wisconsin, said that he hopes the Hammock era of NIU takes the traditions that have been set for the Huskies to the next level.

“Today, we usher in the Hammock head coaching era,” Frazier said. “We usher in an increased grit, passion and determination. Most importantly, we continue our tradition, the hard way mentality.”

Hammock said a foundation for his tenure, at least early, will be building trust between him, his staff and his players. The former two-time Academic All-American also expressed the importance on academic expectations.

“To me, it starts with earning the trust in that locker room,” Hammock said. “Transition is never easy, but it starts with earning the trust and building the type of men and the type of character off the field that’s going to translate off the field. If I can’t trust you to go to class, it’s going to be hard to trust you on third down.”

Speaking of his staff, Hammock didn’t announce any members of his staff yet, but said they would help sell his players on his idea of the future for NIU.

“I’m looking for guys who are loyal and are going to sell my vision,” Hammock said. “They have to sell to the players and their families and help continue what we do here.”

Hammock will also try to meet the expectations of fans and Frazier, who says the players have a clear objective of being national contender.

“We win championships here and we graduate at the highest level,” Frazier said. “It’s time for us to get back to those New Year’s Six bowls. We were there, we know what that looks like. The players have made it very clear that it’s their objective.”

 

The Northern Star will update this story as more information becomes available.