Hammerschmidt Finally Hits Paydirt
AMES, Iowa -- Growing up in Chesterfield, Mo., Iowa State football player Kurt Hammerschmidt spent more time scoring goals than touchdowns. The redshirt sophomore was a soccer player through his freshman year at De Smet Jesuit High School, until the Spartan football coach approached him.
“I saw Kurt on the soccer team as a freshman, he was easily 6-foot-4 and it was obvious to me he was outgrowing soccer,” said De Smet High School head football coach Pat Mahoney. “I approached him and asked him to think about football. He also played basketball and with the speed developed playing soccer and the hand-eye coordination in basketball; I thought he’d be a natural at wide receiver or tight end.”
In his sophomore year as a Spartan, Hammerschmidt decided to give football a shot and carried his soccer and basketball skills with him. He was a punter as well as wide receiver, defensive end and kick returner.
Mahoney refers to Hammerschmidt as a natural leader, which was likely fostered by his three-sport background at De Smet. Although the Cyclone tight end had his share of playing time on offense at De Smet, he never scored a touchdown.
“In high school it was more of a running style offense and we had really good wide receivers,” Hammerschmidt said. “We did nothing but run the ball and I didn’t really get a chance to make any plays in the end zone.”
Last Saturday in Iowa State’s 52-38 victory over Texas Tech, Hammerschmidt found the end zone for the first time. He caught the first touchdown pass of his life from redshirt senior quarterback Austen Arnaud in the fourth quarter of the Big 12 matchup.
“He told me that was his first score and I didn’t realize that it was truly his first touchdown,” said Iowa State tight ends coach Courtney Messingham. “When the ball was in the air I just kept saying relax and catch it, relax and catch it. And thankfully he made a play and sometimes when you’re standing there all by yourself it becomes a little harder than it should.”
With 3 minutes and 40 seconds left in the game, Arnaud dropped back and spun to the right side for a wide-open pass to Hammerschmidt in the front of the end zone. After the catch, the 6-foot-5-inch, 253-pound Cyclone raised his arms in celebration and jumped in the air as fellow teammate Collin Franklin gave him a congratulatory embrace.
“Having your first touchdown ever in a football game against a big school like that was definitely awesome,” Hammerschmidt said. “My parents were in the stands, wearing the number 86 jerseys and my dad came up afterwards with tears in his eyes.”
Not only did Cyclone faithful witness Hammerschmidt’s first-ever touchdown on Saturday, they also witnessed the first time Iowa State had ever scored 52 points against a Big 12 opponent. The communications studies major hopes to be an active part in continuing the Cyclones’ success.
“Day by day our motto is 1-0,” Hammerschmidt said. “I try to be 1-0 on every snap. I try to beat the guy across from me every day and I’m trying to focus on that more and more. Footwork, whatever the case is, I’m just trying to work on the little things.”
With his new goals comes a willingness to do whatever it takes, just as he was willing to play multiple positions in high school to make a difference. With a spread offense limiting some of the things he can do, Hammerschmidt is willing to transform into a fullback or wide receiver, whatever is best for the team.
“Kurt was, and I’m sure still is a team player first,” Mahoney said. “He would do whatever we asked of him in high school and his versatility stemmed from his multiple sports background.”
Hammerschmidt’s hard work to learn a sport he’d never played before in high school has carried over into his collegiate career. Coach Messingham has seen a drastic improvement in his play from what it was a year ago. Hammerschmidt has seen action in four of five games this season and has tallied a total of 31 yards for the Cyclones.
“I thought last spring he started to get a lot better the more repetitions he had and the more opportunities he got to get on the field, and this fall during two-a-days it was night and day from a year ago,” Messingham said. “His reliability, his confidence, his ability to go out and make plays all improved.”
Hammerschmidt’s confidence came simply from getting out on the field and playing. After past seasons of watching game tape and others play the tight end position, Hammerschmidt was able to step in and have a live opportunity. The 21-year-old’s longest reception of the season is 15 yards.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s started to have some success, but the success that he’s had is something I believed could happen for him and he’s worked hard,” Messingham said.