Born: July 31, 1949 Port Arthur, Texas
Gary Hammond grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1968. His father encouraged him to play every sport he could. He was a second-team All-State quarterback in 1967 and a high school All-American in 1968. Heavily recruited by Texas and Texas A&M, he chose Southern Methodist University because he was Methodist. SMU recruiter Dave Smith made sure to visit with Hammond's pastor on recruiting visits to Port Arthur, and Hammond's pastor had an active role in the recruiting, according to Hammond.
Hammond was a three-year letterman at Southern Methodist University and was an All-Southwestern Conference wide receiver as a sophomore. In his junior year, coach Hayden Fry moved him to running back to get him the ball more. Hammond started the year at 197 pounds but ended it at 182, stating that opposing defenses just "beat if off of me." Again, Hammond made the All-Southwestern team, but this time as a running back. He led the conference in receiving in both 1969 and 1970. His senior year, Hammond was finally moved to quarterback after an outstanding season was named the conference's Player-of-the-Year. He also captained the football team in 1971, when they went to the Hula Bowl, and he received the Kern Tips Memorial Trophy and the Ray McColloch Sportsmanship Award that year.
Hammond was the New York Jets' third-round draft pick in 1972. While Joe Namath held out for more money, Hammond practiced as the Jet's quarterback in camp. When Namath came back, Gary was moved to receiver. After an exhibition game knee injury, Hammond tried to come back too soon. In warm-ups before a preseason meeting with Terry Bradshaw and Pittsburgh, Hammond's knee popped then stuck in place. Hammond had surgery two days later and spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve.
The next year, before the final preseason game, the St. Louis Cardinals surprised the Jets by claiming Hammond off waivers at a time when most teams' lineups were set. Cardinals coach Don Coryell had noticed Hammond in a college all-star game and liked his versatility. Hammond had received a player of the game award playing both quarterback and receiver. Hammond backed up All-Pro receiver Mel Gray and also played defensive back and returned punts in four years with the Cards. Concussions and other injuries forced Hammond's retirement after the '76 season.
Hammond, some say, should have gone to Texas and been on a national championship team. "Had I not played three positions at SMU, would I have been drafted in the third round to play in the pros? I don't know." Did he make the right decision? "Oh, absolutely," Hammond said, pointing to a picture of his wife Beverly, whom he met at SMU. "That's the best thing that's ever happened to me." Beverly was the homecoming queen in 1971.
Hammond is a member of the SMU Hall of Fame and received the SMU Alumni Association Leadership Award in 1969, 1970, and 1971. He was NFL Alumni Association President in 1986-87 and in 1992 received the NFL Alumni Legends Award. He is enshrined in the Museum of the Gulf Coast-Sports Hall of Fame and shares space there with fellow SMU greats Louie Kelcher, Jerry LeVias, and Jerry Ball.