Thursday, October 3, 2013
In 16 days, Paine College will take to the football field for the first time in 51 years.
The Lions program will feature some faces familiar to the CSRA as well. Most notable is former North Augusta star and 2009 Aiken Standard Offensive Player of the Year, Loranzo Hammonds.
Hammonds spent the last two seasons playing at Florida International before deciding to return closer to home.
“The reason I actually came back was because of my mom, who was having some health issues,” Hammonds said.
The atmosphere at Paine will be much different from what Hammonds has grown used to while playing in Miami. Not only is Paine a much smaller school, but football will be a club sport this season before joining the SIAC in Division II. This will be the third time head coach Gregory Ruffin has revived a college program. He brought football back at Shaw University in 2002 and Lincoln University in Missouri in 1999. Ruffin lead Shaw University to a 7-3 record in the first year, and he is hoping for similar success with the Lions.
“We’ve got some athletes. If you look out there, you see size and speed, so it’s going to be a pretty good first year of football here,” Ruffin said. “It’s really exciting for me because having done this before I know what it’s going to be like when the kids start to see some success.”
One of those athletic players is Hammonds. Ruffin said his quarterback has shown some good leadership and the ability to make plays.
“He’s not a talkative kid, but he’s going to be a guy who leads by example,” Ruffin said. “That’s the most important position to have settled when you’re starting out a program. It was big that we landed him.”
Hammonds spent the last two seasons at the Division-I level. He redshirted in 2011 and saw action in six games last season for the Panthers. He was mostly used as a running threat.
He attempted six passes over the course of the year. Ruffin, however, will be utilizing him in the pass game more often. The coach said that is one of the areas Hammonds has impressed him in. He also spoke highly of the 6-foot-1 quarterback’s ability to improvise.
Hammonds believes his time at FIU will help him make an immediate impact for the Lions.
“I thing the time in Miami really helped me improve my reads,” Hammonds said. “My ball’s coming out a little bit faster. I feel like I also got faster.”
One of the players Hammonds will be throwing to this season is another local product.
Ty Brooks, who was also an All-Aiken Standard selection, is on the roster at receiver, and his brother Hykeem is a defensive back for the Lions. The siblings both see the team as a fresh opportunity to play the game they love.
“It’s a fresh start,” Hakeem said. “It’s basically another chance since I didn’t do what I was supposed to as a student athlete in high school. It’s good to get a chance to show off my talents.”
“I’m just trying to take advantage of being at the next level,” Ty added. “Its more work, big players, faster players, but I like the challenge.”
The most exciting thing for Hammonds is the opportunity for his mom to see him play. She didn’t get a chance to see him play in while he was at FIU, and he is looking forward to the added fan support in the stands at Lucy C. Laney Stadium, where the Lions will play their games. He even said it may help him play better. As for any added pressure from being such a high profile player at a smaller program, Hammonds said he doesn’t feel it will affect him any.
“I know there hasn’t been any football around here for a while, so I guess there will be a lot of attention on me and the team,” Hammonds said. “I don’t feel any pressure. I’ve been playing this game since I was 5, and it hasn’t changed a bit. Football is football no matter where you play it at.”
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications.
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