OGDEN — Matt Hammer is going back to Weber State.
Hammer, the Weber High head football coach and former offensive coordinator at Weber State, will leave the high school to coach inside linebackers at WSU, Hammer told the Standard-Examiner. He informed members of the Warriors football team Tuesday morning.
WSU confirmed Hammer’s hire Tuesday but could not comment further until it becomes official with the university.
Hammer will replace 15-year assistant coach Colton Swan, who was hired earlier this month to coach linebackers at the University of Utah. Hammer, who taught physical education at WHS, is starting at WSU immediately.
“I’ve always had a lot of love for Weber State, I enjoyed my time here at Weber State and when I was here — I was here for seven years. Getting away from it and being away from it for as long as I was, for the last six years, I missed it. I missed the environment, I missed the competitiveness,” Hammer said.
It leaves the Warriors looking to replace a coach who turned a program that hadn’t seen prolonged success since the late 1990s into one of the area’s football powers.
Hammer has been the Weber High head coach for six seasons, leading the Warriors in the past two years to consecutive unbeaten Region 1 championships and appearances in the 6A state quarterfinals — one of the most successful two-year runs in the school’s history.
The 2017 region championship, the school’s first since 1996, and nine-game winning streak earned Hammer the Standard-Examiner All-Area Football Coach of the Year honor.
“I’ve grown a pretty good relationship with Coach (Jay) Hill and I believe in what he’s about. That’s what excites me about being back here is to work for a guy that I have tremendous respect for,” Hammer said.
Hammer was previously offensive coordinator for four seasons at Weber State, also coaching running backs and working as recruiting coordinator during his stint as a full-time assistant from 2007-12.
After playing receiver and defensive back at Clearfield High and Southern Utah, he joined WSU’s staff in 2006 as a graduate assistant coaching linebackers. He coached under head coaches Ron McBride and Jody Sears at Weber State.
Hammer said he wasn’t necessarily looking to leave Weber High but, when Swan left, he got in touch with Hill. Hammer interviewed last week and accepted the job over the weekend.
“Every year around this time there’s just a lot of movement in college football ... To me it’s timing and fit, and it’s the right time and the right fit,” he said.
So how does someone who was mainly an offensive coach at the college level transition to coaching linebackers? As head coach for the Warriors, he had to be more well-rounded in his coaching approach.
“Definitely the last six years have helped that, not just focusing on one side of the ball as a coach. You’ve got to have an answer at any given time for every single player on the field,” he said.
Weber High started two college-bound seniors at linebacker this year: Sione Moa (Utah State) and Brandt Opheikens, who’s juggling offers from Dixie State and Snow College, as well as walk-on offers from Utah and Utah State.
This year’s recruiting class from Weber High may also be one of the most decorated in school history. Along with Moa, kicker Pierce Callister committed to Utah State as a walk-on and long snapper Josh Carter committed to Weber State. Opheikens will likely end up at the D-I level one way or another, and receiver Hudson Schenck is also weighing college offers.
And to think, before Hammer came along, Weber was referred to as everyone’s bye week.
“But that’s just not about me, it’s about the 13 coaches helping me out, the 104 kids that we had in the program, community members helping us out financially. There’s so many moving pieces in it that it’s not about me,” he said.
Hammer said one of the things he’ll miss most about Weber High is the ability he had to impact and influence kids’ lives. Kids are why he got into coaching in the first place, he said.
“The community members, the teachers, the administration, for me life’s about relationships and I want to have great relationships in every setting that I’m in,” Hammer said.
“I can’t say thank you enough to those people.”
URSUA TO COACH RECEIVERS
Swan wasn’t the only assistant Weber State lost to a Pac-12 team this offseason as Colorado hired Al Pupunu to coach tight ends. WSU has hired SUU receivers coach Jared Ursua to replace Pupunu on the offensive staff.
The program has not announced the hire and could not comment until it is official with the university, but Ursua changed his Twitter bio and cover photo to reflect his move from SUU to WSU. Quarterback Jake Constantine also tweeted last week, “More than excited to have (Ursua) on board! Let’s go.”
Hammer and Ursua join the staff in the heat of recruiting season. National Signing Day is Feb. 6.