For two years, Mary Hammonds would ask her grandson about transferring to a college closer to home.
Loranzo Hammonds would tell his grandmother he planned to stick it out at Florida International, nine hours away from his North Augusta home. When the 101-year-old Hammonds died in August, Loranzo decided to honor her wishes.
“I knew I had to come home,” Hammonds said. “I’m going to dedicate what I do on the field (today) and what I do throughout the season to her.”
Hammonds, Paine’s starting quarterback, will lead the Lions into action today when the school plays host to Georgia Prep Sports Academy at 2 p.m. at Laney Stadium. Paine, playing as a club team this season, is seeing its first football action in 51 years. Next year, the school will become a full-fledged Division II member in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Hammonds, a dual-threat standout who starred at North Augusta, is being tasked to lead the Lions. He transferred in this fall from Division I Florida International after two years at the Miami school.
Hammonds decided to return back home after speaking with his cousin Coco Hillary, the standout wide/receiver punt returner at Strom Thurmond and Appalachian State now working as a Paine assistant coach. Hammonds was tired of Florida International and thought during the off-season about transferring to a junior college close to home. Then, Hammonds’ father got in contact with Hillary, and Hillary mentioned Paine restarting its program in Hammonds’ backyard.
“I knew he’d be good for the program,” Hillary said. “And it gives him an opportunity to finish up his education.”
Hammonds, a business major, spoke to head coach Greg Ruffin and liked what he heard.
Likewise, Ruffin liked what he was getting from The Augusta Chronicle’s 2010 South Carolina high school football player of the year who threw for 2,446 yards and 21 touchdowns his senior year with a 71.6 percent completion rate. Hammonds also rushed for 652 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Ruffin said Hammonds is making great strides after a slow start to practice.
He added no one on the team has been able to get a good look at his running ability, because Hammonds is not allowed to get hit in practice.
“I expect to see a whole lot more out of him, because he can’t be cautious,” Ruffin said. “In practice, the defense can kind of choke it down a bit because they know no once can touch him.”
The 6-foot, 200-pound Hammonds said he is looking to put his game on display today.
“I’m excited,” he said. “We’re going to go out there and try to accomplish everything we want to accomplish. And we want to win the game.”