2023 INDUCTEE - MYLES HAMMON
By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily
A memory can sometimes become distorted with the passage of time.
Doug Vest says his memories from Sept. 7, 1961, remain crystal clear.
That was the night the Falkville Blue Devils made the short trip to Hartselle to play the then Morgan County High Tigers in football.
Falkville scored a touchdown in the final seconds and walked out of what is now J.P. Cain Stadium with an 18-13 victory over what is now Hartselle High.
Vest threw the game-winning eight-yard touchdown pass to Lloyd McCarley with six seconds left.
“It never would have happened if it wasn’t for Myles Hammon,” Vest said. “He was our team leader. Myles was our right tackle and he made up the touchdown play in the huddle.”
Hammon is being inducted into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame on May 6.
“In all my life I’ve never been around an athlete or just a person like Myles Hammon,” Vest said. “He was just a natural born leader. Everyone around him looked up to him. He was a great influence on my life. I think about him every day.”
Hammon went on to play football at Auburn. He entered the Air Force ROTC program while in college. After graduating from Auburn, Hammon became an Air Force pilot. Tragically, he died in a training mission crash at the age of 35 in 1979.
Football has been a way of life at Falkville High for almost 100 years. In all that time, only two players have ever signed to play at Alabama or Auburn. The first was Noojin Walker, a star running back in the 1950s who played at Alabama.
The second one was Hammon, who signed with Auburn in after playing six years on the Falkville varsity. He was a four-year starter in the offensive and defensive line and earned All-State honors in 1960 and 1961.
Hammon earned six letters in football, three in basketball and three in baseball. The 1962 baseball team won the Morgan County Tournament championship. His classmates voted him “Best All Around.”
Auburn got Hammon’s signature in December of 1961 after beating out Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Florida State and Dartmouth.
“Myles is fast for his size, strong, enjoys contact work and loves the game,” Falkville head coach Huge Morris said on Hammon’s signing day. “Probably his biggest asset is that he’s a thinking player. Most of the year Myles has had the responsibility of calling our offensive plays.”
The biggest play call that Hammon probably ever made was in that 1961 season-opening win over Hartselle.
“We ran the T-formation with just about all of our plays going behind Myles at right tackle,” Vest said. “We were down there close to the goal line against Hartselle late in the game and our coach called time out and gave us a play to run.
“We get back to the huddle and everybody is quiet. Then Myles said ‘Fellows, I don’t think this play can work. Let’s do this.’ That’s what we did.”
Hammon had Vest move from right halfback to quarterback. At the snap of the ball 10 Falkville players would move to the right and draw the Hartselle defenders in that direction. Left halfback Lloyd McCarley would hesitate for a couple of seconds and then race to the left flag in the front of the end zone looking for a pass.
“When I looked back for Lloyd, he was wide open,” Vest said. “I took two steps toward him and made the pass. He caught it before the Hartselle defensive back could get over there to stop him from scoring.”
The final seconds of play ended with Hartselle trying for a miracle on the following kickoff before time expired.
“We celebrated after the game ended, but not like the way they celebrate today,” Vest said. “Since the game was played on Thursday, we did take Friday off from school. The whole town celebrated for two or three days.”
Falkville used that win as a stepping stone to the school’s only undefeated season. It was Falkville’s first win over Hartselle since 1956. It would be the last. After Hartselle wins in 1962 and 1963 the series ended.
College football was different in 1962 in a lot of ways from what it is today. One way is in the number of players. Another way is that freshmen could not play on the varsity. Hammon was one of 35 Auburn players on the roster for the annual freshmen game vs. Alabama. One of his freshman teammates was former Decatur Red Raider running back Don Lewis.
One way college football in 1962 was similar to today’s game was the competition between Auburn and Alabama. Ralph “Shug” Jordan coached Auburn to a national championship in 1957. “Bear” Bryant returned to his alma mater in 1958 and coached Alabama to a national championship in 1961.
During Hammon’s three years on the Auburn varsity in 1963-1965, Decatur’s Bobby Freeman was an assistant coach. Freeman was a member of the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame’s first class in 1989.
The Tigers had talent with players like Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Bill Cody, Gusty Yearout, Freddie Hyatt, Tom Bryan and Forrest Blue.
Auburn went 9-2 in 1964 with a 13-7 loss to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers were 5-4-1 in 1965 with a 13-7 loss to Ole Miss in the Liberty Bowl.
Unfortunately for Hammon, injuries limited his playing time in college, but he did find another team to join and that was the Air Force. After graduating from Auburn with a Master’s degree in Economics, Hammon entered the Air Force in 1968 as a 2nd Lieutenant. Because of his ROTC rank and high grade point average, Hammon was selected to attend flight school.
Hammon finished at the top of his class in flight school. That gave him the opportunity to be an instructor pilot and fly jet fighters. In 1979 after just receiving the rank of major, Hammon died in a training crash in Oregon.
“When someone like Myles Hammon dies at such a young age, you can’t help but wonder what he could have accomplished,” Vest said. “I know Myles would have gone on to great things. He was just that kind of person.”