Seeing as they’re all seniors, Florida’s Fab Four wide receivers knew the breakup was coming, that it was inevitable. They just didn’t expect it to end two gigs too soon.
After the end of the 2019 season, they were counting on being together, working together, two more times — at the NFL Combine and then again at UF’s annual Pro Day.
But neither happened.
Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland and Freddie Swain were invited to the Combine. Josh Hammond was not.
Then, just a few weeks ago, the word came out that Pro Day had been canceled due to the threat of the coronavirus, sidelining all four and the rest of the draft-eligible UF players.
“It definitely sucked,” Hammond said. “I wanted to be there (at the Combine) to be with my brothers and have that experience with them. That’s something that was out of my control.
“Pro Day was out of our control as well. To have Pro Day, it would have been a good time. We were all looking forward to it. We knew we’d all be there and all the young (UF receivers) would be there. They were really looking forward to seeing us. They were bummed they didn’t get to spend some time with us.”
The Fab Four’s playing run together is over. They’re no longer a group. They’re all on their own now, going solo as they prepare for the NFL draft April 23-25.
Hammond is probably a little more accustomed to this situation because he’s been in it longer since he was snubbed by the Combine. He’s also been motivated by the NFL’s decision not to include him in Indianapolis.
“It just puts another chip on your shoulder,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that don’t go to the Combine that played in the NFL and played for a really, really long time. Did a lot of great things.
“I don’t think it really bothered me too much. I just wanted to be there with the other three. But that’s not in my control.”
What is in Hammond’s control is how he’s preparing himself for the draft. Because workouts and personal meetings with NFL teams have been canceled, Hammond is back home in Hallandale pretty much on his own, staying in football shape and working on his craft.
“I’m just going to continue to work and see what happens,” he said. “They say the draft is still supposed to happen at the end of April, so I’m just staying ready for whatever comes next.
“I kind of have access to a gym and I kind of don’t in a way. The gym is not too far from my house. We still kind of do the same things, just a lot of football-related things — route running, catching the football every day, footwork, agility stuff. Just to get back in the swing.”
Because he didn’t get to go to the Combine, Hammond recently held one of his own, doing all the things he would have done in Indianapolis. His agent, Sam Spina, filmed the workout and is now sending the tape to every team in the NFL.
“We did everything — timed 40, vertical jump, broad jump. … everything,” he said. “We did it on a short turnaround, but I think I did pretty well.”
The tape he wants the NFL to see on him the most is from his last two seasons at UF under coach Dan Mullen. He has plenty of good stuff there.
Over the past two seasons, he’s combined to catch 55 passes for 715 yards and six touchdowns. He also had a 76-yard TD run on a jet sweep against Kentucky in which he showed great speed, running away from the secondary.
Oh, yeah, and in his junior season, he did not drop a single pass.
“(The tape) is definitely good because at the end of the day we’re here to play football,” Hammond said. “What you do on the football field is predominantly what’s going to keep you in the National Football League.
“Being able to put stuff on film is definitely big. I thank Coach Mullen and the rest of my teammates as well for putting in the work and putting in the time as well for us to be able to showcase the talent we have, not only for myself but for our whole offense as a unit. To be successful and win the games that we did and play the way we did.”
The only contact Hammond can have with NFL teams is over the phone. He’s talked to numerous teams, and the conversations have pretty much been the same with each team, he said.
“They ask the basic general questions,” he said. “Where are you training, what are you doing, test my football knowledge. Have you ever been hurt, any injuries that we need to know about. Stuff like that.”
With so many unknowns out there with what’s going on in the world, Hammond said he has no feel for where he might go in the draft. He is certain what kind of player the team that picks him will be getting.
“A guy that would come in and work hard and be willing to do whatever he has to do to help the team be successful,” he said. “That’s probably my biggest attribute.
“And a guy that’s not going to have any off-the-field issues, definitely lead by example and try to help the guys around him be better players and better men.”
As for the Fab Four, they’re pretty much scattered now. Hammond and Jefferson (Brentwood, Tenn.) are back home, Cleveland is in Atlanta and Swain is in Gainesville.
But their connection remains strong.
“I talk to them every single day,” Hammond said. “We have our little chats and keep in touch.”