One of the biggest surprises of camp was the development of wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr.
So read the story from a Florida newspaper in August 2008.
Hammond had arrived at the University of Florida as part of the Gators’ recruiting class after the 2007 national championship without great fanfare, not unlike his debut with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent two years ago.
Now, like his early Florida days, Hammond is impressing his way through training camp. During the first week of full-squad workouts, with all eyes on newcomer Jeremy Maclin, Hammond garnered attention by diverting receptions away from the Chiefs’ big offseason acquisition.
In one series, Hammond dove for a ball near the sideline that appeared to be destined for a Derrick Johnson interception. But the pass sailed through Johnson’s arms into Hammond’s chest.
A few plays later, on a quick hit, the ball slammed off Hammond’s elbow and ricocheted into the air. Hammond, surrounded by three defenders, momentarily lost sight of the ball only to find it at the last second. He made the reception while falling to the ground.
“I should have gotten my head turned around a little quicker on that one,” Hammond said. “Thankfully, I was able to find it.”
These catches occurred a day after the Chiefs were forced by storms to practice indoors, and Hammond came up with a pair of leaping snags.
He’s seemingly in the right place at the right time and catching everything thrown his way.
“He’s going after the ball,” said backup quarterback Chase Daniel, who has made Hammond something of a favorite target. “He’s a physical receiver. He may not be the biggest guy in the world, but he can get in there and throw the shoulder around. His concentration is excellent.”
The Chiefs have 14 wide receivers in training camp after signing Mizzou product L’Damian Washington earlier this week. Two, Junior Hemingway and Chris Conley, have missed time with injuries. Speedster De’Anthony Thomas has moved to the outside. Second-year pro Albert Wilson and 10-year veteran Jason Avant look like locks. The competition will be strong.
It was a good time for Hammond to have a highlight-reel week, which included a special-teams play when he caught a ball two yards from the goal line on punt coverage.
“I’m just trying to make plays,” Hammond said. “Improve, bust my tail and build off last year.”
In 2014, Hammond appeared in all 16 games, started three and caught four passes. He returned 15 punts for a team-leading 13.3-yard average.
A year earlier, he wasn’t part of the 53-man roster. But after going unclaimed through waivers, he was signed to the Chiefs practice squad.
This, too, mirrors his college route. With the Gators, Hammond redshirted as a freshman. He earned a scholarship with his athleticism after winning a gold medal at the 2007 AAU Junior Olympics in the high jump, where he soared 6 feet, 10 inches.
He got on the field in his second year but lost his scholarship following a DUI arrest, paying his own way through school as a walk-on. He re-dedicated himself, returned to the program’s good graces and won back his scholarship the following season. Hammond finished his college career with 63 receptions and six touchdowns, including a 75-yard game-breaker against Tennessee as a senior.
Now, Hammond looks to keep his spot on a Chiefs team that must get more production from its wide receivers, the group that didn’t catch a touchdown pass last season.
He didn’t hurt his chances with a solid first week of camp.
“I’m just trying to develop the trust of the coaches, so they know they can put me at any spot,” Hammond said. “I want them to be confident in me to get the job done.”