Life is moving quickly these days for Jacksonville State’s Ray Hammett, who has been helping broadcast Gamecocks football games for most of the last 28 years.
Hammett, 66, has retired from his job at JSU’s School of Education, and he and his wife, Rhonda, are moving to Foley to be near their two youngest grandchildren.
When reached Tuesday afternoon, he was at an attorney’s office, as he and Rhonda were closing the sale of their Jacksonville home.
“For about three weeks, we’re going to be homeless, until we close on the new house,” Hammett said with a laugh.
His retirement includes his work as radio color analyst on the JSU Football Network. Mike Parris, the longtime play-by-play broadcaster, confirmed that former Gamecocks All-America defensive back Eric Mims will take over the analyst job.
“Working with Mike on the radio, it’s just something I never dreamed about, but it’s been a huge part of my life, and I’m so thankful I had that opportunity,” Hammett said.
Hammett worked on the radio broadcast with Parris from 1992-2002. He then did color analysis for the TV feed for JSU home games during 2005-2011 before rejoining Parris on radio in 2012. He also occasionally did other JSU sports, such as basketball and softball.
Hammett is a Jacksonville native, a Jacksonville High graduate and former JSU linebacker in the 1970s, including the 1974 Gulf South Conference champions. He also coached high school football locally for 14 years, including nine as a head coach at Lineville, Saks and Jacksonville.
He also served as a local high school administrator before retiring from the state system and working in Georgia. He eventually retired there and came back to work at JSU for a year.
“I’ve retired about four times now,” he said, laughing.
On the football network, Hammett combined his knowledge of the game and JSU’s program with a folksy, friendly charm to endear himself to radio listeners.
“I am who I am,” Hammett said. “The great part of this about Mike is Mike is so good and you just sort of jump in. The other part about this is I always knew it was Mike’s show. I was not the star of the show. I just tried to fill in, and I tried to approach it from the average fan’s standpoint.
“I didn’t want to be too technical. I wanted the mothers and the wives and those folks who knew something about football to have an idea what I was talking about. That was how I lined it up, and I hope a lot of people did connect with that.”
Parris said he was working in local radio when he first met Hammett. At the time, Hammett had just been named head coach at Saks. They worked together on a 15-minute radio show called “Coaches Corner.”
“Somewhere in the midst of all that, he mentioned one time that if I ever had an opening like that, that he would love to be a part of it,” Parris said. “Obviously, he loves Jacksonville State.”
Both Hammett and Parris said that of their time in the broadcast booth, they most value the friendship they’ve built.
“We’ve become very, very close friends,” Hammett said. “With all the traveling that goes on with this, we’ve been everywhere, and it’s usually just Mike and I in the car. So we’ve had a lot of time to just become very close friends.”
Parris, who has done JSU broadcasts since 1983, added, “It’s going to be different for me, quite honestly. Over half the years I’ve been doing the broadcasts for football-wise, he’s been right there beside me.”
Hammett said that the draw of being near grandchildren is too great. He said the two who live in the Mobile area are 5 and 8.
“In the fall, I never get to see them,” he said. “I want them to know who we are and us to be a very big part of their lives.”
He said he will miss his time beside Parris, broadcasting JSU games. In his list of some of the highlights, he included the 1992 Division II national championship, the 2013 run to the NCAA FCS quarterfinals, the 2015 run to the FCS finals, and the five straight OVC championships. He said he also enjoyed games at SEC stadiums, such as Auburn and LSU.
“It’s been a joy,” he said. “I would do it all over again. I really would.”