What was supposed to be a day of celebration and excitement at Camp Randall quickly turned in to one of sadness, as UW head coach Gary Andersen announced that running backs coach Thomas Hammock was leaving for the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL.
It was a shock move, one that few around the program saw coming at this point. According to Andersen, Hammock was professional up to the last minute.
Thomas was coaching the running backs this morning at 6:30. He definitely since then has made a decision. It was important for Thomas to be able to get in front of his players and communicate with them. It was a very difficult decision, but Thomas has made that decision.
Over the last few offseasons, Hammock has been a hot commodity in coaching circles but had stayed loyal to the Badgers.
Coach Andersen is 1st class in every aspect of coaching. I learned a lot from him and truly appreciate everything he has done for my Family.— Thomas Hammock (@CoachHammock) February 5, 2014
Hammock has coached some of the best names at running back in Wisconsin history, including Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement, who combined for 3,600 yards and 32 touchdowns this past year.
The stats his players have put up are impressive, but Hammock became a star on the recruiting trail in his three years at Wisconsin.
For his efforts, he added recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach to his job title when Andersen came to the Badgers and was just one of two holdovers from the previous regime.
Hammock had been a presence for the Badgers on the East Coast in the past, but was stationed mainly in New Jersey.
With the added responsibility and Andersen's desire to put a bigger emphasis on recruiting Florida and Georgia, it's no mistake that Hammock was tasked with going into those new areas.
He proved Andersen's faith right this year, closing on 4-star quarterback D.J. Gillins out of Jacksonville, Fla., as well as getting a pair of big-time recruits out of Georgia in wide receiver Krenwick Sanders and defensive lineman Jeremy Patterson.
Hammock had never really recruited those areas before yet found a way to pull talent that was wanted by a lot of Southern schools as well.
At the end of this recruiting cycle, Hammock finished as the No. 16-ranked recruiter in the Big Ten. He was credited with getting the signatures of six of the 25 players signed by the Badgers on Wednesday.
It was this season's efforts down South that made a lot of people excited about where Wisconsin was going on the recruiting trail. Andersen made it very clear that the efforts down there went well, via his signing day press conference.
Moving ourselves to the East Coast, we'll have two coaches that are in there pretty much full time. And moving into the Midwest, a little more compartmentalized, if you will, in the strategic places we need to be. We'll continue down those roads. Georgia will also open up for us, and we'll continue to have one coach at least in Georgia full time.
Andersen clearly saw the benefits of being in those areas, but it was Hammock that delivered him those results.
Wisconsin will miss Hammock as a coach on the field, but given his importance on the recruiting trail it will be vitally important for Andersen's replacement to be an equally good East Coast recruiter.
Can the rest of the coaching staff pick up the slack as the 2015 recruiting cycle heats up quickly? Who could take over for that kind of recruiting?
Whoever it is, there are some big shoes to fill in the Badgers program and that's a credit to just how good a coach Thomas Hammock is.
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten football lead writer. All recruiting information courtesy 247Sports. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.