December 22, 2011

Hammond confident with ankle

MADISON - When Chase Hammond initially broke his ankle as a junior in high school he wasn't entirely certain he'd ever be able to play football at a highly competitive level again.

But that uncertainty never stopped him.

Even when another ankle surgery reared its ugly head earlier this fall camp, Hammond remained positive. Now, with his rehab behind him, the redshirt freshman is focused on gaining momentum entering spring camp.

I just wanted to see how you were doing because I know you had that ankle injury. What happened there?

Hammond: It wasn't really anything that had happened. It was basically still carrying on from my junior year of high school when I had broken it pretty bad. I went through multiple surgeries taking my screws in and out. My final surgery, which was in August, they just removed some scar tissue and stuff. My ankle was just kind of solidified and I couldn't move really well. It was painful to move. The doctor did a great job with that and it hasn't felt better.

Did you go through spring camp last year? Refresh my memory?

Hammond: Yes, yes.

So did the ankle bother you then? I guess when did it reach its apex?

Hammond: Throughout the season last year, throughout practice, I had a lot of problems with the screws on the side of my ankle. I had six of those. We went in and talked to the doctors and he said maybe we should take those out and that it should help. Throughout spring ball it felt better, but it still wasn't right.

We thought it might loosen up. They thought a lot of the scar tissue would break up with me being able to move a little bit better. Throughout the summer it was just kind of progressively getting a little bit worse. When camp hit and we hit those first two practices and went and talked to the coaches and told him I'd probably be better off if I did it now than wait any longer to get it fixed.

So it was definitely something you were aware of?

Hammond: Definitely. With scar tissue, having as much as I had which they didn't know, it can break down and it can eventually fix itself if you work it. I just had more than my body could handle so I had to get it taken out.

You said it dates back to your junior year of high school?

Hammond: Yeah, my first year of my junior year of high school. I actually scored the first touchdown and then the play after that, I played safety as well, I broke my ankle. I had surgery a week and a half after that with six screws and a plate. That was the end of my junior season.

Knowing that it dates back that far, I guess that was two or three years ago, are you concerned that this is something that is going to plague your career at all? Is the surgery and everything you underwent, and all the maneuvers that you did, enough to give you confidence to be pretty clear for the rest of your career as far as your ankle is concerned?

Hammond: Let's say it like this. When I first did it and I had my first surgery they said it was questionable to even play. Having that said I took my time with it. I was on crutches for three months during my first surgery. When I came back from basketball season, about halfway through, I wasn't really aggressive. I was just kind of testing it out. I was able to make it through my senior year and get here obviously. That kind of made it up in my mind. If I want to get through it I can do it. As far as anything in the future, it feels great now. It's felt great since August. I've had no issues with it at all so I don't see it being a problem at all.

No mental issues at all? You feel pretty good about trusting it?

Hammond: It's one of those things where you just go. You don't look back or worry about what's going to happen. You just do it and do what you can do while you can do it.

When did you get back to full practice?

Hammond: I was out for the first few weeks for sure. I started to slowly back into stuff about week four of the season. I was practicing probably about week six.

I guess now is probably an opportunity for you to get some momentum going for spring camp.

Hammond: Yeah. Now has been great. Coach DelVaughn Alexander has been giving me a few opportunities here or there. He's basically told me that when I get that chance I'll need to go in and do what I do. Opportunities are slim, but when I get them I try to take advantages of them. That's been going great. Like you said I'm trying to get a little momentum for spring ball and really get rolling. I've been feeling great and been getting great looks on the scout team. Coaches have really been praising me. I've been trying to take it and run with it.

It's kind of an interesting year when you look at the depth chart. Obviously next year Jeff Duckworth and Jared Abbrederis will be back and they both made some strides this year. Otherwise it seems to be pretty open.

Hammond: Yeah, it's wide open. You've got the kids who I came in with which would be me, Manassah Garner, Marquis Mason and Isaiah Williams. All of us are about even. Mannassah has played a little more than the rest of us and he's a class ahead of us because he didn't redshirt. As far as spring goes it's all open. Jeff has proven himself and I'm sure everybody knows that. Jared has been great for us as well and that's why he earned what he's earned for this spring semester coming up. I think it's them two and whoever else wants to step up. I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge.

You seem pretty hungry.

Hammond: Yeah. I'm ready to go. I've been tired of the injuries and sitting around. Everybody is looking at you like they're thinking, 'What's wrong with you?' Basically I've just been trying to get after it. In the weight room we've been getting after it. Coach Ben Herbert has got us doing what would be the equivalent of a summer workout program. We've been doing that for the past six weeks. I've made great strides there. I feel a lot stronger on the field. I'm just ready to go and trying to improve with every category.

What are you at right now weight-wise?

Hammond: I run about 216 or 217. On a heavy day I can get around 220 pounds.

Is that where you want to be?

Hammond: Yeah, by the end of summer and starting next camp I want to be around 225 pounds. Me being 6-foot-5 it's not much weight for me. I can hold that really well. I want to stay around the 220-pound range.

You've kept all the speed in tact?

Hammond: Yeah, I actually feel faster with the heavier I've been getting. I've been getting stronger. Having all those surgeries you get muscle strength and you lose it. You get it and then you lose it. I've finally had a good streak here where I've been feeling good and feeling faster.

You just went through your third semester on campus. Is school going all right?

Hammond: Yeah. School is great. I actually just got my first grade back and I got an A. Hopefully the rest of them will look like that. School has been great and I really enjoy it. They help us out a lot downstairs with that.

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