GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida wide receiver Josh Hammond is no stranger to new position coach Billy Gonzales and first-year coach Dan Mullen.
In their first stint with the Gators as assistant coaches, Mullen and Gonzales were on staff when Josh’s older brother, Frankie Hammond, signed with Florida in the Class of 2008.
Gonzales served as Frankie’s position coach for two years and primarily recruited him in high school, while Mullen spent one season with him before moving on to Mississippi State.
Josh Hammond still recalls his first meeting with them during Frankie’s recruitment, and so does Mullen.
“The first thing he asked me was did I remember when he walked into my house. And I definitely did,” Hammond said of Mullen’s return to Florida. “I’ve known him through the whole recruiting process with Frankie. I remember Coach Gonzales. I still remember his wife, kids and everything about him.
“It’s just a coincidence that they finally came back to Florida and [are] coaching me now. It’s just one of the million things that could happen in this world.”
Hammond said Mullen, while at Mississippi State, tried to lure him to the Bulldogs as part of the Class of 2016. They met with each other when Hammond was in high school, and their first meeting a few months ago at Florida was a pleasant even if a somewhat unsettling reminder for Mullen.
“I do remember Josh being little. I know Billy recruited Frankie,” Mullen said. “You come back and you see Josh years later from being a little kid, it makes me feel old. When you get here and they say, ‘I was like this big when I came on my visit before.’ I’m still the same.”
Coaching changes can be a difficult process for some players to experience, but it’s been a smooth transition for Hammond with Mullen and Gonzales. He and his family members were happy about the coaches’ return to Florida.
“My family felt very comfortable when the coaching change happened, knowing what happened with my brother,” Hammond said. “They were excited that some old Gators [came] back that were here when they were winning so that the program will get turned around a lot quicker.”
Hammond has bought into Mullen’s program. In a recent vote by the team, he was selected as one of eight players to serve on a leadership council that will work as a conduit between coaches and players.
“I was one of the guys that voted for Josh to be on the leadership council,” Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks said of Hammond. “He’s always set an example, for not only the receiving group but the whole team. He’s always been that guy who is always trying to do right, and he does it at his best every time.
“That’s not him being anything new. That’s him ever since I’ve known Josh from when I first got here. He deserves it. Along with being a great player, he’s a great person and a great leader. That’s just Josh.”
Hammond made 8 starts in 10 games played last season, catching 18 passes for 246 yards. He’ll have more competition at receiver this year with the addition of transfers of Trevon Grimes and Van Jefferson to the program, but Hammond is simply focused on improving his game.
“I just have to go out there and compete,” he said. “It will come down to who is ready to work and who is going to shine when the light is on us. I think our receiving group is all willing to help each other out, even though it is going to get very competitive. Guys are going to compete for spots and try to impress each other.
“I’m not going to tell somebody something wrong to hurt them and benefit myself. The best man is going to win at the end of the day. … I’m a guy that comes into work everyday with the same mindset to try to get better and to try to get the team to get better.”
Mullen praised the wide receiver’s attitude and approach to the game Tuesday, but he’s not surprised by those qualities. He has high expectations of Hammond based on his brother’s background.
“I know this, you’re excited to have him because I knew through the recruiting the character that Frankie had, and the family and the type of parents and upbringing that he had,” Mullen said. “You look at Josh as really the same character-type of person. The work ethic, the drive, takes cares of his business, does things the right way. And that’s why, I mean, he’s a leadership committee guy because I think everyone sees the respect that he has of his teammates and what the program is all about.”
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