On Sept. 22, 1979, Ole Miss played Missouri in Jackson. The game was televised nationally on ABC. In Tupelo, we were excited because of No. 12 for the Rebels. He was a Golden Wave hero and the pride of Elvis Presley’s hometown. We even made a sign for the television cameras. It read: #12 Andre “Hammerhead” Thomas + Ole Miss = ABC.
I so much hated to hear Tuesday that Hammer has passed away.
Hammer was beloved in Tupelo long before he graduated from THS in 1979.
He was a good dude who worked for years and made himself into a very good football player. Hammer lived and grew up in Tupelo a few blocks from my mom’s restaurant and arcade. He was a regular as we grew up, showing up to eat popcorn and barbecue sandwiches while playing pinball, foosball and air hockey (the only sports I could beat him at).
Hammer would come in the store and greet my mother with put-on sophisticated airs while saying, “Good afternoon, Mrs. Harris. How are you?”
Mom would laugh and say, “You’re a funny kid, Andre.”
Later on, when that funny kid grew up into a back who hammered the football at opposing defenses and won games for Tupelo High, everyone started calling him “Hammerhead.”
Mom would read the Daily Journal on Saturday morning and say, “Hammerhead did good last night.” Later, when everyone shortened the nickname to just Hammer, she did the same.
We were all proud and excited when Hammer went to Oxford to play football for Ole Miss, and then in the USFL and NFL. We were proud when he came home and opened his great chicken wings restaurant.
Andre Thomas was part of what made Tupelo great.
I lost my mom last year, and I miss her. Like so many of us, I’m also going to miss Hammer.
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