By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
The life of a college football coach is the opposite of sedentary; coaches are “on the move” in every sense of that phrase. Dan Hammerschmidt’s (B.A., ’87) career is the perfect illustration.
Dan’s grandfather, father, uncle, and brother all coached football. With this lineage, did he grow up wanting to coach? No, he wanted to be a marine biologist, as he loved the ocean near his home in California. Trying to recruit him to play for the Rams, CSU coaches assured him he would not miss the ocean, as “Fort Collins has a huge lake that sits just above town.”
After four years (1982-85) as starting safety for the Rams, Dan spent a training camp with the Indianapolis Colts. In 1986, he started his career at CSU as student assistant coach. He was a graduate assistant coach at Texas Christian University in 1987. From 1988-93, he coached outside linebackers, special teams, and the secondary at Duke, and in 1994-95 he coached the secondary at Virginia Military Institute.
He came home as CSU receivers coach from 1996-2000 and quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator from 2001-07. In 2008, he coached wide receivers at Rice University and in 2009 was assistant head coach at Wyoming. He returned to CSU in 2010-11 as passing game coordinator and receivers coach.
In 2012-13, he was offensive assistant with the NFL Houston Texans. He returned to the college ranks to coach running backs at the University of Houston in 2014; since 2015, he has coached safeties at Oklahoma State University.
The list of Dan’s players who set records or went on to NFL careers is impressive. Equally impressive is his personal coaching philosophy. Dan explains: “While most coaches understand that ‘coaching hard’ is necessary to football success, truly great coaches also have the players’ backs and love them once they walk off the field.” Dan cites Sonny Lubick to illustrate: “There are few coaches like him; he not only cared for his players but also created staff unity.”
Coach “Hammer” also is one of the great ones. Bradlee Van Pelt (B.S., ’09), Ram and NFL quarterback, describes Dan as “a father figure—tough but encouraging” and “instrumental to my success.” Crockett Gillmore (B.A.,’16), Ram and NFL tight end, calls Dan “a great coach and a good guy who players feel comfortable talking with.” Russell Sprague (B.A., ’03; M.A., ’05), Ram tight end, says Dan would call you out when you made mistakes, but he never made personal attacks. Matt Yemm (B.A.,’11), Ram wide receiver and high school coach, says Dan “had high expectations and knew I had more in me; he was direct and clear in communicating that.” He says Dan also “checked in with players during the offseason,” and “you could tell his concern was genuine. He is as good as it gets!”
Coach Hammer not only coaches football; he coaches life. He is an Alumni Association Life Member who loves his alma mater and Fort Collins. He visits frequently, spending time with friends, a many of whom are former players.