AUGUSTA, Ga. – With kickoff less than one month away, Paine College's head football coach, Gregory Ruffin, and his staff are eagerly anticipating the return of Paine College Football.
When the team suits up on Oct. 12 to play a club football game against Georgia Prep Academy, many of the Lions will be returning to the football field for their first time since high school as Paine's football program returns for their first game since 1962. One of the team's leading players, however, will enter with a unique experience behind him, Division I playing time.
Paine quarterback Loranzo Hammonds, Jr. (6-2, 200 lbs.) graduated from North Augusta High School in 2011 and left the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) for Miami, Fla., where he signed to Florida International University. Hammonds redshirted the 2011 season, saw some playing time during the 2012 season but did not start and has now transferred back home to be a Lion.
"I chose Paine because I'm from North Augusta," said Hammonds. "My mom had gotten sick and I wanted to stay home and stay close to her so that was a big reason why I chose Paine. Also, my cousin CoCo Hillary (Cicory Hillary) is the receivers coach and he brought me in to meet with Coach Ruffin. I felt Coach Ruffin's vibe and the way he talked about Paine and then I made my decision to come here."
Coach Ruffin's "vibe" is infectious as all of his coaches and players have a spirit about them that transfers off the field. The young men that make up his football team are quickly turning into leaders on campus and can be found every Wednesday morning listening attentively and sitting as a team at Paine College's weekly Assembly. Although football has not recently been the norm here, its presence is quickly becoming standard.
"It's been good," stated Hammonds. "Stuff has been going real smooth and faster than I thought it would. We've been coming together as a team and it's just like working at a Division I school."
Hammonds has been playing football since he was five and has been lining up as quarterback for a majority of those years. The business administration major tends to model his game after his favorite quarterback, Michael Vick, and notes that there are similarities between their games. Like Vick, Hammonds has always been known as a dual threat quarterback combining his passing skills with quick feet to elude defenses and keep offenses alive.
"Playing in Florida is a little faster than it was playing in South Carolina so I feel like I am a bit ahead of the game right now," admitted Hammonds. "Playing at FIU helped me a lot."
In addition to the speed and pace of the game, the Division I experience gained by Hammonds has also helped him tremendously when it comes to his ability to read defenses and be an adept decision maker on the field. Those skills will be invaluable for Hammonds at Paine and he is excited to put them to use in front of a hometown crowd during the team's abbreviated club football season this fall.
"It means a lot to me to play back home," exclaimed Hammonds. "This program means a lot to the CSRA. Players from the CSRA that don't get to play Division I can stay home and go to Paine and still play good football."
Hammonds has high expectations for himself and so do the coaches. Coach Ruffin and his staff expect Hammonds to continue to develop and be a leader on the field for the team. His time at North Augusta and FIU prepped him for the job ahead and now it is his time to deliver.
"The biggest thing we need is somebody to lead us offensively," noted Coach Ruffin. "With us being a new program, being able to get an experienced quarterback to transfer in has been a blessing. It definitely helps having a guy that won't have first game jitters and who has played the game at a high level. We are excited about that."
Paine will play Georgia Prep Academy at 2 p.m. on Oct. 12 at Lucy C. Laney Memorial Stadium. Tickets will be sold in advance and at the stadium the day of the game.
(Courtesy: Paine Athletics)
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