LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — More than 15 minutes into a Wednesday afternoon interview with SEC Country, Arkansas signee T.J. Hammonds stopped mid-sentence.
“Can I tell you a story?” he asked the reporter.
“Alright, listen to this.”
Hammonds proceeded to describe in detail the first time he met Joe T. Robinson High School linebackers coach Brian Maupin, a mentor of Hammonds’ who sat nearby during the interview, smiling and shaking his head.
During a team session in a 2013 preseason practice, one of Maupin’s linebackers made a mistake, so he asked Hammonds to run through the hole again.
“I run through the hole — and remember, I’m a 10th grader — and he just comes out of nowhere and popped me,” Hammonds said.
“I’m like, ‘What are you doing? You’re a coach. You can’t do that.’
“That was the first time I met him, and I didn’t like him.”
Oh, how times have changed.
Maupin holds 5 a.m. workouts throughout the offseason for his linebackers, but welcomes any Robinson player to join them. So between Hammonds’ sophomore and junior years, he asked if he could participate.
The biggest problem, though, was that Hammonds lived a fairly long distance from the school and didn’t have a car. So he started staying two or three nights a week with Maupin and his wife, an arrangement that continued off and on through the next couple of years.
Hammonds credits those workouts for his explosion as a junior, when he recorded 1,172 receiving yards, 852 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns.
As a senior, Hammonds played more running back and rushed for 1,375 yards and 22 scores, while also recording 661 receiving yards and six more touchdowns.
A four-star prospect, he committed to the Razorbacks in April 2015.
“People kept asking me how I changed and got so much faster and stronger between my sophomore and junior years, and it was those workouts,” Hammonds said. “Gotta have those, because not everybody’s doing that.”
Hammonds reports to Fayetteville on Saturday for summer workouts. Arkansas coaches sent him a playbook to study before he arrives. He’s been told to focus on running back for now, although he expects that he could also end up playing receiver.
“Arkansas is very open to being creative with him,” said Maupin, who also serves as Robinson High’s recruiting coordinator. “He has a versatile skill set.”
Arkansas beat writer Jason Kersey is visiting several 2016 Razorback signees before they report to campus later this month. Here is a look at past stories in the Up Next series:
- What has kept Arkansas signee Briston Guidry from being complacent? ‘I just love the game too much’
- After stellar senior season, Arkansas linebacker signee De’jon Harris could have a role on offense
- Why quarterback Cole Kelley chose Arkansas’ offense instead of a more familiar system at Oklahoma State
- Arkansas running back signee Devwah Whaley excited for journey with new ‘brothers’
- A proud momma’s boy, Arkansas’ Briston Guidry skipped prom, stayed home, watched movie with mom
- Arkansas signee Jordan Jones withstood pressure from Nick Saban, remained committed to Razorbacks
- What’s life like for a 6-foot-7 quarterback? Arkansas’ Cole Kelley embraces being an unusually big signal caller