Flying under the radar fine by Josh Hammond

Hey, look. Another article hyping the Gators’ 2019 wide receiver corps.

There’s Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney and Freddie Swain. The list goes on and on. Oh, and there’s also Josh Hammond.

It’s no big deal. He only managed not to drop a single pass last season as Florida’s No. 2 receiver.

But seriously, that’s almost unheard of, even for the best receivers in the country. Only one other in the SEC in 2018 could say the same.

Still, in almost every story about this group of receivers (my own included), Hammond’s name seems to fall to the back of the line.

It is so easy to talk about guys like Grimes and Toney because they’ve proven their ability to make flashy, electrifying plays. And they deserve every bit of it. But maybe Hammond deserves some, too.

Even his teammates noticed as others grabbed the attention over Hammond these last few years, but they know what he brings to the table. Maybe it’s just a product of his personality.

“He doesn’t do much on social media,” said fellow senior wide receiver Freddie Swain. “He doesn’t do much as far as being on cameras and stuff like that. I feel like he’s not as flashy as the other guys. I mean, that probably put him under the radar. But if you look at his numbers and look at his percentages, he’s up there with the best of the best. As long as he knows we have his back and we know he has our back, we’ll be all right.”

Swain is right. Hammond isn’t flashy, but he’s as steady as they come.

Everyone wants the guy who can grab a 75-yard touchdown reception at any given time, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter and the Gators desperately need a first down, Hammond has the sure-hands they need.

Quarterback Feleipe Franks will attest it makes his job a whole lot easier.

“When you talk about NFL football, college football, the one thing you always hear about or see is consistency,” Franks said. “That’s what coach wants is somebody who is consistent, does their job every time and does everything right on and off the field. I think when you name all those things, Josh checks off every single box … He does get overlooked, I agree on that. He’s just one of those guys you want to be friends with and you want to have in your locker room.”

If Hammond could pinpoint one thing he’s worked and improved on the most since he stepped on campus, he’d say his consistency.

The funny thing is he didn’t realize the importance of that from watching his older brother or any other receiver, but a linebacker. All the way from Detroit Lions training camp, Jarrad Davis is still making an impact on the Florida program.

Years ago, Davis gave Hammond a piece of advice that seemed miniscule at the time, but stuck with him to this day.

“My freshman year when JD was here, he told me that the hardest thing for a receiver is to be consistent, so I kind of took that and ran with it,” Hammond said. “Every day, I just tried to be consistent with my routes, tried to make it all look the same and tried to get on the same page with the quarterback as much as I can. It’s worked out well for me.”

He has no control over how many mentions he gets on Twitter or how much preseason buzz he gets from the media, but he does control the effort he gives day in and day out.

“Since Day 1, I’ve never missed a workout, I’ve never been late to a meeting,” Hammond said. “I try to go as hard as I can in everything I have to do and just stay focused. I think that’s been the biggest thing is the consistency, from doing everything right and not messing up and trying to be accountable to my teammates and to myself and to my family. I think that’s put me in the position that I am now.”

Hammond not only wants that consistency from himself, but his teammates as well.

He’ll be the first to admit he’s not a natural-born leader. It’s something he had to grow into.

When Jim McElwain got fired, everyone on the team had their world turned upside down. Until they became comfortable with Dan Mullen and the new staff, the only thing the players had was each other.

During that time, Hammond felt the need to break away from his introverted nature and take on some vocal leadership.

“I’m just not afraid to speak up and let somebody know if something is wrong,” Hammond said. “If I feel like somebody is not running as hard as they can, like Tyrie [Cleveland] for example, Tyrie runs pretty fast, so Tyrie should be in the front of the pack a majority of the time. So, if I see him not in the front of the pack, I feel like I would be letting the team down if I don’t push him to go as hard as he can. That’s just the one thing I try to do is to get on guys and make sure everybody’s going as hard as they can.”

This is a seasoned group of wide receivers, but even the other seniors said they look up to Hammond because of the way he carries himself.

“Coming in with him as a freshman, I looked up to him,” Cleveland said. “We’re like best friends. Our senior year now, just being able to learn from him, being able to pick up things from him off the field. The guy went last season with no drops, so that’s something to be proud of. I’m trying to go a season with no drops. It’s all about learning from each other, and I learn a lot from Josh.”

This might finally be the year Hammond earns the same respect he has from his team from the rest of the country. Or, maybe he’ll continue to work from the shadows.

It’s all the same to him.

“We all put in the same work,” Hammond said. “We work together. We hang out together. At the end of the day, we don’t care who makes the play as long as the play gets made. I think that’s our mentality. The hype doesn’t really mean much to the group. We just wanna be able to put our team in a position to win.”

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Bailiegh Williams
Growing up the daughter of a baseball coach in a household that revolved around Gators sports, Bailiegh’s future working in sports was her destiny. She played four years of varsity softball at Suwannee High School and one year on softball scholarship at Gulf Coast State College. In her first year she discovered a love for journalism so she packed her bags and moved to Gainesville to finish her A.A. and begin interning for Gator Country. She is now on track to graduate from the University of Florida in 2019. In her free time, Bailiegh enjoys binge watching her favorite TV shows and spending time with her family and her two fur babies.