B.J. Hammer was named the 34th head coach for the Gators’ football team on Jan. 4, 2016, replacing Mark Matlak who announced his retirement on Oct. 27, 2015. Having more than a decade of coaching experience and an accomplished playing career on his résumé, Hammer is eager to start rebuilding the Allegheny football program both on the field and in the classroom.
“[They have a ] great tradition,” Hammer said. “I’ve know a lot about them, and in my mind, there’s no reason why Allegheny football should be where it has been for the last three years. So, I see the potential there. We are going to turn this thing around. We’re going to make this thing work.”
Hammer is a 2001 graduate of Wabash College where he served as team captain in 2000 and was a two-time All-American and three-time All-Conference honoree. Hammer started his coaching career at Wabash post graduation. Hammer comes to Allegheny with additional coaching experience from Heidelberg College and Whittier College.
“The guys are ready to work, so we’re going to jump right into our lifting, conditioning and cycle. That’s the first phase,” Hammer said. “I’ll take things kind of step-by-step.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, the coaches and players held their first official team meeting where Hammer discussed the changes he plans on making to improve the program.
Assistant Coach Kyle Derickson is confident in Hammer’s plans for the football program.
“I think it’s going to be a constant assessment for him. I think everything is on the fence for change. If something needs to be changed, we’re going to do it. And we’re going to do it for the betterment of the program,” Derickson said.
Derickson said Hammer’s attitude is contagious and creates a winning competitive atmosphere.
“As a coaching staff, we’ve latched onto him, and I think the more time the players spend with him, they’re going to bind to that, and it’s going to be exciting for all of us,” Derickson said.
In addition to improving the team’s performance on the field, Hammer wants to improve their performance in the classroom as well.
“We’re trying to get our team GPA higher. We never want to sacrifice the academic peace for football,” Hammer said.
In an attempt to promote friendly competition between team members, Hammer started a game where players can “bet burpees” on anything like the winner of a game, who can lift more or who can get a good grade on a test.
“He really focuses on team unity and communicating well. He wants us to be more of a team and more of a family. I can see the hunger in Coach Hammer’s eyes. He wants to win just as badly as we do,” said Jason Murphy, ’18, a wide receiver for the Gators.
Coach Hammer is no stranger when it comes to rebuilding football programs, and is confident that the Gators are going to succeed and improve.
“I love competition. I love to compete. I want an ultra competitive environment. Everything we’re doing from being on the academic top 10, to the classroom and to the lifting… I want these guys on this team to learn how to compete in everything they’re doing and that’s going to make this better.” Hammer said.
Hammer, the coaching staff and the players are looking forward to a fresh start. The team begins training on Feb. 1 to prepare for spring practices and scrimmages.