Hamm’s rare claim: back to back national titles

Lucas-Hamm.jpg
Lucas-Hamm.jpg

?You immediately know that you?re part of back-to-back championships, but this one?s more special because it?s mine?because of all the work I put into it personally from the end of last season until that final game.??Lucas Hamm

The body still aches, but Lucas Hamm isn?t complaining much these days.

The 2007 Hillsboro High School grad is home on holiday break from Butler Community College and still savoring the rare accomplishment of playing on back-to-back national championship football teams.

With Hamm at starting fullback, the Grizzlies defeated Snow College from Ephraim, Utah, in a wild 37-30 double-overtime victory Dec. 6 to win the Top of the Mountain Bowl near Salt Lake City to win the 2008 national title.

Hamm had a more limited role a year earlier in Butler?s 56-27 win over Snow College in the same bowl game for the title.

This year?s repeat was all the sweeter.

?You immediately know that you?re part of back-to-back championships, but this one?s more special because it?s mine?because of all the work I put into it personally from the end of last season until that final game,? Hamm said.

?Having that role as a starter on the team made it that much more special.?

Hamm left for Butler in the summer of 2007 thinking he would be playing linebacker, the position he played at HHS and the Kansas Shrine Bowl high school all-star game.

Two weeks into camp, the coaching staff was trying him at other positions, before settling in at tight end and special teams.

About halfway through his freshman season, a couple of fullbacks went down with injuries.

?They tried me out at fullback and decided they liked me there, so they kept me there the rest of the season,? Hamm said.

In Butler?s offensive scheme, the fullback is essentially another lineman playing in the backfield. Hamm didn?t register a single carry, and caught maybe one or two passes.

He got significant minutes playing time when the Grizzlies went to a two-fullback set, but mostly rotated in when they didn?t.

?It was different for me going from playing every play (in high school) to standing on the sidelines watching most of it,? he admitted. ?But you?re playing with the best players. You?ve got to know your time will come.?

Hamm played a limited role in the first championship game, but got in some licks.

?I was really excited about it,? he said about the title. ?But there was a little part of me that was felt like I was on the team but I didn?t play a major role in the game. The guys who were playing all the time?it was their championship.?

As the only returning fullback, Hamm worked out this past spring as the starter, and maintained that role in his sophomore season, although he shared time on the field with a red-shirt freshman?with no complaints.

?At fullback, our bodies take such a beating,? Hamm said. ?We were both hampered with shoulder injuries throughout the season?I sprained my ankle in the beginning of the season and had to miss a game.?

Hamm said he and his returning teammates knew the Grizzlies would be competitive again this season, but it took a while to find their stride.

Butler started the season as the top-ranked team in the country, but lost its opener 23-20 to No. 2 Blinn (Texas), the 2006 title holder, in a game hyped as ?The Battle of the Champions.?

?We knew we didn?t play well, especially in offense,? Hamm said of the loss. ?We knew we had to start working.?

The Grizzlies dropped to No. 6 in the rankings, but didn?t lose another game after that. Enough teams lost who were ranked ahead of them that they climbed back to No. 2 by the end of the season and earned an invitation to Salt Lake City.

Beyond winning the title, Hamm said he?ll remember the championship game as one of the dirtiest ones he?s played in.

?There were punches being thrown, players were talking back and forth?everybody?s emotions were on edge.?

Butler blew a 23-9 lead, but won the game in the second overtime on a fluke play. A Butler field-goal attempt was partially blocked and the ball squirted into the end zone. A Snow player tried to recover the ball, but could not, allowing a Butler player to fall on the ball for a Grizzly touchdown.

?Their players didn?t know the rule and we did,? Hamm said of the end zone recovery. ?It was great. It made it a lot more special to be able to shove it back at them, I guess.?

For his sophomore season, Hamm finished with six carries for 12 yards and two touchdowns. He scored a third TD on a pass play, one of four receptions for the season.

Even though those stats aren?t eye-popping, Hamm was a first-team All-Jayhawk Confer?ence pick nonetheless, and has received some offers from four-year colleges for next season??but not all the ones I was looking for,? he said.

Hamm plans to finish his associate degree in agri business this next semester and work out with the team during the spring season.

?Coaches (from other colleges) will come in during spring and look for players for spots in their squad,? Hamm said. ?Some (Butler) guys worked out last year in spring and it worked out really well for them.?

When Hamm finds a school of his liking, he plans to earn a bachelor?s degree in marketing?and play football if the opportunity still looks inviting.

?I?ve thought about how my body is feeling right now and whether I want to spend another two years at it,? he said. ?I?ll see how much I miss being in the full swing of it this spring.

?Right now my plans are that I?m playing, but you?ve got to think how it might affect you in the future.?

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