December 22, 2009 2:47:00 PM
AMORY -- The welcoming line extended almost out the door of the media center.
If Trent Hammond didn''t understand how passionate Amory is about its high school football team, he grasped that concept after more than 40 minutes of shaking hands and talking with well-wishers Monday afternoon after being formally introduced as the school''s head football coach.
Hammond, who was the head coach at Franklin County the past two seasons, was approved to be hired Friday by the Amory School Board. He replaces Pat Byrd, who earlier this month left the school to become head football coach at Saltillo High.
Hammond also will replace Byrd as Amory''s athletic director.
"It has only been a two-week process for me to come in here and to get involved in this," Hammond said. "Like I told the crowd today, if you have been around football for a long time, you can remember the years Amory has had. To be part of a tradition-rich program like that is an exciting thing. It also seems to be a great community that you can get in and raise your children. There are only so many places in the state where you can expect to play good football and to have a great family experience, too, and I think Amory brings both of those together. That''s what we''re looking for."
Hammond and his wife, Kim, have two children, Maddie, 11, and Hayes, 8.
Hammond went 10-4 this season with Class 3A Franklin County. In 2008, Franklin County went 12-2 and lost to eventual state runner-up Tylertown in the Class 3A South Half State final. He also spent four seasons as a head coach at Water Valley, three seasons as head football coach in his hometown of Lawrence County, and one season as defensive coordinator during a state championship season at McComb. He also won a state title in his first stint at Lawrence County when he worked there as defensive coordinator.
Hammond knows Amory won state football titles in 1994, ''95, and ''98. The Panthers have made the playoffs each of the past 10 seasons under Byrd. They have won eight or more games in four of those years, but only once (9-4 in 2005, third round of playoffs) in the past five seasons.
Hammond credited Byrd for continuing Amory''s tradition and doesn''t feel the program needs a major overhaul.
"It has to be a new fire," Hammond said. "It is not so much a rebuilding as getting a change. Coach Byrd is a tremendous coach and he has had tremendous success. He has done a lot for Amory. It is is just one of those times where a decision was made that maybe somebody with a different energy or a different style could come in and do the things. I don''t think it is a rebuilding job. I think it is a rekindling of a fire that is still there."
Hammond said any football coach needs that confidence to believe they can do turn a program into a championship caliber team. He said he has got kids out and ready to play everywhere he has coached. He knows he will be able to do the same thing at Amory High.
"With the community and the turnout like this (in the school''s media center), it just takes a little bit of stirring to get the whirlpool back to going," Hammond said.
Chris Harper, who will be a senior wide receiver on the football team next season, met Hammond for the first time Monday. He said he and his teammates are excited and feel Hammond can help Amory have the same kind of success that Franklin County had.
"I have heard a lot about him and he comes from a winning tradition," Harper said. "It is going to be amazing to see what he can do. (I think he can bring) championships. We''re excited to see what he is going to bring to the football program."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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