HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Most Southern Miss fans will say they found the right man to lead their athletics program. A minority say the opposite, and that's what Jeff Hammond hopes to change in the coming days, weeks and months as athletics director.
"The few people that aren't supportive, they just don't know me," said Hammond Monday morning, "and it's my job to get out and get to know them." Hammond, not even a month into his tenure as AD, had the chance to do that to start his week.
With the help of Father Tommy Conway, Hammond and a number of Southern Miss coaches and boosters gathered for a prayer breakfast at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Hattiesburg Monday morning. "It was just an opportunity to have a little fellowship and enjoy the start of a great week," said Hammond.
In attendance was future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, along with his wife Deanna, USM women's head basketball coach Joy Lee-McNelis, former head baseball coach Corky Palmer, and a crowd that included about 75 people.
More so than anything, Hammond maintains a confidence in himself, his leadership abilities, and that the more he interacts with his nay-sayers, the more he feels he will win over many. "I Think given the opportunity to sit down with anyone, I think I'd walk away with a new brother or sister," he said.
"It's my job to get out...and let them know who Jeff Hammond is, and Jeff Hammond is a Southern Miss person, with a deep passion, love and care for this institution and everything it represents."
Father Conway seems to agree that all Hammond needs is time before more Golden Eagles start flocking to the former Major General. "I think the longer he's around, and the more people hear him speak, the better he's going to be accepted," he said.
A small number, though an impactfully small number still, do not accept him. Why that is, Conway feels is about personal agendas. "Sometimes I have people I want in certain situations, and if it doesn't work out, I tend to take my toys and go home, but that's not what this is about," Conway said.
Since he first assumed the role of full time Director of Athletics, Hammond has reiterated that one of his biggest goals is to reunite the administration and it's financial supporters. Naturally, he wasn't going to accomplish that with a free breakfast (though, anything is possible). So his goal for the sun-lit morning was a bit simpler.
"Our goal is to wake up, take a deep breath, take a step, put on our black and gold, and step forward in fellowship with some wonderful men and women as we did here this morning," said Hammond, "So, goal achieved."