A member of the Secret Society from 1983 to 1985, Jeff Hammerschmidt was one of the most versatile and accomplished players in the history of Helix football. The two-time Grossmont League Most Valuable Player was an All-CIF safety and quarterback. In 1985 he was voted the San Diego section’s Most Outstanding Player by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Jeff excelled as a safety his sophomore and junior seasons, but in 1985 he was asked to anchor both the defense and offense. Playing quarterback his senior season, Jeff completed 50% of his passes for 1,636 yards and threw 19 touchdowns. For the season he scored 81 points and also handled the team’s kickoff, punting and place kicking duties. His five interceptions anchored a Helix defense that allowed only 9.7 points per game and was instrumental in snapping Sweetwater High School’s 36 game win streak in a hard fought 15-6 victory in the CIF Semifinals.

Recruited as a safety, Jeff accepted a scholarship to the University of Arizona where he followed in the footsteps of former Secret Society and Wildcat greats Allan Durden and Chuck Cecil. Jeff’s great athleticism and versatility enabled him to make his mark on both sides of the line of scrimmage. As a redshirt freshman, Jeff backed up Cecil at the safety position. However, injuries wiped out the team’s quarterbacks and Jeff was asked to come over to the offensive side of the ball. Thrown into the starting line up on short notice Jeff responded by rushing for 135 yards against the University of California. His total included a 71-yard touchdown on an option keep. Playing on the offensive side of the ball of the ball this year produced one of the greatest moments in Secret Society history. On November 14, 1987 when Arizona played USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Jeff quarterbacked the Arizona offense, while Chuck Cecil anchored the Wildcat defense and leading the USC offense that day was another member of the Secret Society, tailback Steven Webster. Jeff played in six games at quarterback this year before returning to the defensive secondary the next season.

Jeff assumed the role of free safety after Cecil’s graduation and went on to become one of the most popular and outstanding safeties in Wildcat history. He compiled 269 tackles, three fumble recoveries, 22 pass break ups and had 11 interceptions in his Arizona career. In 1990 he led all Arizona defenders in unassisted tackles and caused fumbles. The All Pac-10 safety was once voted PAC-10 Player of the Week for his performance against the University of Oklahoma in 1989. Jeff made 20 tackles and led the Wildcats to a 6-3 upset over the 6th ranked Sooners. Jeff was also a Jim Thorpe Award finalist in 1989. This award is given annually the top collegiate defensive back in the nation.

After his senior year Jeff was selected to play in both the Hula Bowl and Japan Bowl. He played professionally for Frankfurt in NFL Europe in 1992 before returning to the United States to embark on a collegiate coaching career. Jeff coached defensive backs at the University of Arizona for two years and then spent two years as defensive coordinator at Southern Utah. He coached outside linebackers and coordinated special teams at  Indiana University  for two years before taking over the defensive coordinator responsibilities at St. Mary’s College in April of 2000. In 2003 Jeff assumed the defensive coordinator responsibilities at the University of Montana. After helping lead Montana to the Division 1A national championship game in 2004, Jeff joined the staff at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he was reunited with head coach Rich Ellerson his former Arizona and Southern Utah mentor. In the spring of 2006 Jeff accepted a coaching position at Stanford University where he coached the linebackers and was in charge of the Cardinal special teams. In 2008 he returned to coach at his alma mater the University of Arizona and in 2012 he accepted a coaching position at Colorado State University. After the 2015 season Jeff left CSU to coach for the New York Jets where he works with special teams.

Jeff was able to find success not only because he was a great athlete, but also because he showed a tremendous determination and a willingness to do whatever it took to ensure team success.  Jeff’s willingness to come over to the offensive side of the ball his freshman year prompted Arizona coach Dick Tomey to comment that it was one of the most unselfish things he had ever seen. It inspired the Arizona coaches to create a Bronko Nagurski Award to honor players who showed exceptional toughness and a total team attitude. Jeff was given this award in 1987 for playing both ways and for playing special teams as well. Jeff’s determination was further demonstrated by his ability to overcome a serious injury near the end of his outstanding junior year. He underwent total reconstructive knee surgery and amazingly returned eight months later to play his senior year and lead the Wildcats in tackles.

Jeff now resides in New Jersey with his wife Felicity, their daughter Bryn and their son Bode. For carrying on the great tradition of Secret Society members who have gone on to demonstrate athletic excellence on the collegiate level and for adding his name to the list of great Arizona defensive backs who have so admirably represented the Secret Society, the Star Chamber is honored to include Jeff in the Star Chamber Gallery of Stars. 


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