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Gators receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. has been a reliable target during his time at UF.

Friday December 21, 2012Hammond Plays Role of Mentor as Gators Career Winds Down

Gators receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. has been a reliable target during his time at UF.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The clock is ticking toward the end. The reminders are everywhere for Frankie Hammond.

He earned his telecommunications degree last weekend. He practiced for the final time with the Gators in Gainesville on Friday. His final game as a college football player is the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.

After that, No. 85 isn't sure what's next.

"I'm out of school and now it's on to the real world,'' Hammond said. "I'm excited about what's ahead."

Hammond isn't ruling out professional football. A speedy and intelligent player, Hammond has been a solid contributor at Florida. Still, he understands his name isn't lighting up draft boards around the NFL.

With Hammond, that's what makes him one of the Gators' most popular players among the coaching staff, his teammates and the media.

Steady Frankie keeps it real.

Hammond was asked earlier this week about what he would like his legacy to be. His answer showed the kind of modesty and level-headedness those close to the program have come to expect.

"Just a positive and very good receiver here,'' Hammond said. "I may not have many stats or broken any records or anything like that, just looking back through my time here, I was an efficient receiver. I did what I had to do.

"I just hope the younger guys can see that and take it in and do the same."

A fifth-year senior from Hallandale, Hammond has 20 receptions for 273 yards and career-high three touchdowns this season. He has 61 catches for 767 yards and six touchdowns for his career.

Nothing spectacular. Just Steady Frankie

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease has worked with Hammond for only one season, but he saw enough to appreciate Hammond's contributions.

Two of Hammond's touchdown catches were two of the Gators' biggest plays all season.

The first came in the season opener against Bowling Green. Nursing a slim lead early in the fourth quarter, Hammond took a short pass from quarterback Jeff Driskel on the left sideline, broke a tackle and raced 50 yards for a touchdown to put Florida up 24-14.

In the third game of the season, Hammond struck again.

With the Gators holding a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter at Tennessee, Driskel hit Hammond with a short pass. Seventy-five yards later Hammond was celebrating in the end zone and Neyland Stadium began to empty.

Pease never hesitated in calling Hammond's number.

"Frankie is a solid kid. He works hard. He's smart, he understands things,'' Pease said. "I respect the work he has put in. I respect the opportunity he has taken advantage of. He's made some big plays for us. You can use him as a kid you can put out there, coach him up once, and he understands."

Off the field, Hammond developed into a team spokesman in his final two seasons as Will Muschamp took over the program and sought out team leaders to help in the transition. Win or lose, you could count on Hammond to come out of the locker room to talk about the game.

That could suit Hammond well in the future. He has an interest in sports broadcasting as a potential future career.

First, there's still a big game to play when the Gators face Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.

Hammond doesn't know what his football future is, but he doesn't plan to change his approach to life.

"It's all about staying positive,'' Hammond said. "You do everything right, in return you will get paid that. That's how I look at it."

That philosophy paid off well for Hammond during his time at UF. In the summer of 2010 the well-liked Hammond surprised everyone when he was arrested for DUI on campus near Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

He was the last player coaches or teammates expected to have an off-the-field issue.

He dealt with the consequences, learned from the experience and returned to have a solid sophomore season.

Driskel has enjoyed his time around Hammond -- the player and the person.

"He's been a leader all year long. He is a guy who is going to do right all the time,'' Driskel said. "You are never going to see his name out there getting in trouble. He is a guy who is going to work every day and he's real consistent. That's what you need in a leader."

In his final days in a Gators uniform, Hammond is taking a pay-it-forward approach. He tries to help his younger teammates any way he can, including true freshman receiver Latroy Pittman.

Pittman is expected to assume a much greater role in the offense next season and has been sharp in Sugar Bowl practices.

Hammond plays the role of elder statesmen in talks with Pittman about what could be.

"He picks my brain. When I see things I point it out to him,'' he said. "I just try to give him advice to just be a better man and growing up and being on your own as a college student."

That's Steady Frankie doing what he does. Right up to the end.

 

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