TRADING PLACES : Dan Hammerschmidt: Have Position, Will Fill

Times Staff Writer

Bert Campaneris and Cesar Tovar gained notoriety as baseball’s men for all positions, playing nine positions in one game. If football ever sought a man for all 22 positions, Dan Hammerschmidt might be the answer.

From Helix High to Colorado State, Hammerschmidt has been known by his coaches as Mr. Versatility. However, there could be one problem if he tried to play 22 positions. At 5-11 and 197 pounds, he might not size up at every position.

“I don’t know about the offensive line,” Hammerschmidt said. “I’d need to put on about 40 pounds.”

Colorado State Coach Leon Fuller isn’t about to ask Hammerschmidt to gain 40 pounds, but he knows what would happen if he made the request.

“If you asked him to, he’d gain the weight and play the offensive line,” Fuller said. “He can play any position on the field.”


Hammerschmidt, who will start at strong safety Saturday night against San Diego State, seemed destined to be a quarterback early in his career. As a sophomore at Helix, he threw 24 touchdown passes while leading the Highlander junior varsity to a 9-0 record.

But a sophomore named Jim Plum appeared on the varsity in Hammerschmidt’s junior season at Helix. Plum, now the backup quarterback at SDSU, took over as Helix quarterback and Hammerschmidt went to other positions.

Jim Arnaiz, the Helix coach, originally made a running back of Hammerschmidt, who later doubled as a defensive back. Hammerschmidt was also the backup quarterback.

Before one game, Karl Dorrell, now a starting wide receiver at UCLA, suffered an injury. So who did Arnaiz turn to at wide receiver?

Hammerschmidt, of course.

“When we lost Karl Dorrell, we thought we were losing 40% of our offense,” Arnaiz said. “When Danny replaced Karl, Jimmy Plum set the CIF record by passing for 434 yards. Danny accounted for 99 yards on a quick screen. He caught the ball three yards deep in our end zone and took it all the way.”

Helix won the San Diego Section 3-A championship when Hammerschmidt was a junior and lost to Vista, 34-16, in the championship game when Hammerschmidt was a senior. In that championship loss, Helix had been leading Vista, 10-0, before Hammerschmidt reinjured an ankle and was sidelined the rest of the game.

Once Hammerschmidt decided on Colorado State, where he’s now a senior, it appeared he would be a running back-wide receiver-defensive back-turned-quarterback again. He was the Ram backup quarterback his first five games, playing behind holdover Terry Nugent.

However, when injuries decimated Colorado State’s secondary, Fuller turned to Hammerschmidt. And since Hammerschmidt’s fifth game his freshman year, he has been the starting strong safety.

“I would like to have played quarterback for a year,” Hammerschmidt said. “I also wanted to play free safety at the same time when I was a freshman. Whichever opened up first, I was going to jump on it. At the college level, it’s kind of tough to be running around playing different positions. I like to concentrate on one thing.”

In Hammerschmidt’s four years with the Rams, Fuller has concentrated on turning around a program that hit bottom with an 0-12 record in 1981. Since Fuller arrived, Colorado State has been 4-7, 5-7 and 3-8.

“I thought he would build something here,” Hammerschmidt said. “I’ve been disappointed, football-wise, because I thought we’d have a few more wins. I still think I made the right decision by coming here.”

After high school, Hammerschmidt’s decision was between Colorado State and Brigham Young. He chose Colorado State because Ft. Collins, Colo., seemed to have more of a “college atmosphere” than Provo, Utah.

As Hammerschmidt reflected on his decision to attend Colorado State, he realized he could second-guess himself. After all, BYU has been winning the Western Athletic Conference each year while Colorado State has struggled.

“I didn’t like my recruiting trip to BYU,” Hammerschmidt said. “Now that I think back, I might have been able to make it for four years there. It’s not a college atmosphere socially, not that I’m real social.

“There are a few guys here who went to BYU for a year or two. One guy left because he couldn’t hack Provo. He said the same things about it that I did.”

According to Arnaiz, many people are saying the same things about Helix’s current quarterback, Jeff Hammerschmidt, as they did about Jeff’s older brother. Arnaiz said that, like Dan, Jeff has the ability to play any position.

However, Dan noted that his brother is different than him off the field.

“I have a Texan for a roommate who is always up and going,” Dan said. “I’ve picked up some of those habits. My brother is one of those guys who takes everything as it comes. If you tell him the sky is falling, he doesn’t care. I don’t even know if he knows I played at Helix. He doesn’t care much about that stuff. He thinks he’s the guy at Helix now.”

As long as Jeff Hammerschmidt recognizes the guy at strong safety for Colorado State, that’s all right by Dan Hammerschmidt.

Aztec Notes Webster Slaughter, the nation’s third-leading receiver, has missed practice the last three days with the flu. If Slaughter is unable to play against Colorado State, he will be replaced by Vince Warren. . . Dr. George Brown of San Diego will be honored during halftime of Saturday night’s Western Athletic Conference opener against Colorado State at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Brown, 62, will be inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Hall of Fame on Dec. 3 in New York. Brown, a graduate of San Diego’s Hoover High, was an All-American for Navy in 1943 and Little All-American for SDSU in 1947 as an offensive guard. He has been a volunteer on the Aztec medical staff since 1966. . . . Brett Blanchard has moved ahead of Vince Warren at wide receiver on SDSU’s depth chart for the Colorado State game. Blanchard has one reception, an eight-yard touchdown against Cal State Long Beach, while Warren has 3 receptions for 39 yards. However, coaches were disappointed that Warren dropped two passes against UCLA last week and lost a fumble after one of those receptions.

Colorado State’s roster includes nine San Diego County players--fullback Gregg Battle (Poway High), offensive guard Jeff Brightwell (Vista), offensive guard Phil Coles (Bonita Vista), cornerback Ron Cortell (Sweetwater), center Robert Dakovich (Fallbrook), wide receiver Dewey Dorough (Mt. Miguel High, Grossmont), safety Dan Hammerschmidt (Helix), cornerback Jim King (Patrick Henry) and cornerback Gary Wehlage (Santana High, Grossmont College). Ram halfback Tony Bevacqua is the cousin of San Diego Padre infielder Kurt Bevacqua.