Hammond’s DeKalb ties drew him back to coaching

Editor’s note: This is the eighth installment in a series of stories highlighting the accomplishments of DeKalb County Sports Hall of Fame inductees. The Hall of Fame elected a new board of directors and will induct a new class Saturday, Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. at DeKalb County Schools Coliseum in Rainsville. For information on how to nominate someone for the Hall of Fame, contact a board member or visit the Hall of Fame’s website at dcshof.com.

 

FORT PAYNE — Al Hammond’s feelings for Valley Head are unwavering.

It’s a big reason why the DeKalb County Sports Hall of Famer felt compelled to volunteer his time with Valley Head High School’s football program, a place where his athletic career took shape.

“My connection to Valley Head is strong and always will be,” Hammond said. “That's my alma mater. They offered me a good education and the athletic program offered me an opportunity to go to the next level, for which I’m very grateful.”

After Hammond initially got out of coaching and was working another job, he found some freedom in his afternoons. He decided to return to Valley Head and volunteer some of his free time helping coaches George Hoblitzell and Scott Blackmon grow the football program from 1973-78.

He coached recreation league youth football in Fort Payne from 1980-84, and became president of Fort Payne High School’s booster program and remained active in the program.

Hammond excelled at football at Valley Head after beginning his playing career in the sixth grade. He garnered all-county, all-state and tri-state honors, along with a DeKalb County Player of the Year honor. 

Advancing to the college ranks, Hammond played one semester of football at the University of Alabama and broke his hand. 

“It held me back. I didn’t get to participate in practice as much,” Hammond said.

With his diminishing participation in UA’s football program, Hammond used his scholarship offer from Troy University and transferred.

Hammond thrived at Troy, earning first-team honors from the Alabama Collegiate Conference from 1962-63. He was an unanimous selection to the All-Alabama Collegiate Conference in 1964, and started every game during his four years with Troy’s football team. 

The only injury Hammond suffered during his time playing at Troy was a broken finger, he said.

“I tried to work hard at staying in shape,” Hammond said. “It took a lot of luck, but I was very fortunate. 

“I stayed in the weight room and worked on conditioning as much as I could, played a lot of handball for hand-eye coordination and quickness of feet.” 

Hammond coached football at Eufaula High School from 1965-67, and at Talladega High School from 1968-71. He was named Talladega County’s Coach of the Year in 1970.

“I always thought I’d like to coach, but wasn’t sure,” Hammond said. “But when I got to Troy and became totally involved in the football program, I knew that was the arena that I wanted to go into.  

“I admired all of my coaches; they were great people and had a great influence on my life.

“I felt like I could have an influence on the lives of young people, providing them with some positive outlooks on life and teaching them to excel in a sport I’d always been involved in.”

Hammond was inducted into the DeKalb County Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2004, five years after his son, Matt, was inducted. Hammond joined Harold Carden, Sammy Hood, Don Shirey, Jr., Randy Tumlin and William Eugene White in 2004’s class of DeKalb County greats.

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