Junior quarterback

Junior transfer Jase Hammack will make his second start at quarterback for No. 2-ranked UMHB today.

BELTON — Following a stellar high school career, Jase Hammack spent the last three years wondering if all the work he was putting in was worth it. He had appeared in just two games as a freshman at McMurry and didn’t get on the field in two seasons at Division I Abilene Christian.

It wasn’t an enjoyable time.

“It was a big test of a lot of things. It was a low point for me not to be able to play the game that I love that I’ve playing been for years,” the Andrews product said. “My last semester at ACU, I was tempted to quit. I had talks with people about, ‘Is it worth it?’ I had been working out and doing everything but not getting to play. My parents and some people back home told me to give it another shot.

“It was something I had to persevere through, but I’m thankful I went through it because it helped me be more grateful for other things, and I’m thankful I got to come here and give it another run.”

The “here” that Hammack speaks of is Mary Hardin-Baylor, for whom the 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior will make his second start at quarterback when the second-ranked Crusaders (1-0) begin American Southwest Conference play against Sul Ross State at 6 p.m. today in Alpine.

His initial start for UMHB went pretty well, to say the least. He was 9-of-14 for 292 yards and two touchdowns in less than three quarters of action as the Crusaders crushed Albright 91-7 last week.

To the casual observer, it was impossible to tell that Hammack hadn’t seen extended playing time in three years, even if he felt a little uneasy beforehand.

“I wasn’t really nervous the night before, but definitely the morning of the game,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be like that because I’ve been doing this a long time. But it had been a while since I started a game, so I was nervous but also really excited and thankful for the opportunity.”

Hammack earned the starting job after beating out fellow junior transfer Luke Poorman during fall camp, a battle Hammack said was as friendly as it was competitive.

“It’s been good. It’s a competition, no doubt. Every day we’re going to come out here and compete, but it’s been a good competition,” Hammack said. “We’re good friends off the field. We went to church together over the summer and worked out all summer. Being able to build that relationship over the summer was good.”

Despite his claims otherwise, Hammack has the strongest arm on the team. However, it is his ability to read defenses and adapt on the fly that he leans on most. After making a pre-snap read on a first-quarter play in the opener, he changed the call and threw a short pass to speedy receiver Aaron Sims, who raced 71 yards for a touchdown.

“I’ve gotten this far because of the mental side of it. I don’t have the greatest arm and I’m definitely not the fastest,” Hammack said. “It’s about being able to see the field. (Offensive coordinator Stephen Lee) helps me a lot with that. It’s about recognizing certain things about the defense and doing what you need to do. And throwing the ball out to a (guy who runs a 4.2-second 40-yard dash) makes you look good.”

One contest into what the Crusaders hope is another lengthy season that culminates with their third consecutive trip to the national championship game, Hammack is finally at peace with his college career.

“I might have had some regrets for a while, but I don’t any more. I think God put me here for a reason,” he said. “If I had to go through all of that to get to here and be a part of this team, I would do it all over again.”