09/05/13 — Princeton's "hammer" more than just a coveted prize

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Princeton's "hammer" more than just a coveted prize

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 5, 2013 1:47 PM

A sledge hammer represents power and strength.

It's also become the object of every Princeton football player's obsession this season. Once that last bell sounds, they rush to the fieldhouse on Monday afternoon in hopes of seeing that coveted trophy propped up in their locker.

Whoever finds it feels like a kid at Christmas.

"It's symbolic," second-year PHS head football coach Derrick Minor said. "When you see a big sledge hammer, you've got to put a lot of work behind it. Each week, we give it to the kid that has the hardest hit -- it can be the quarterback, the punter ... whoever blows up a block or has the best tackle."

Patrick Norris will carry the hammer onto the field this Friday when the Bulldogs travel to Dixon.

The 5-foot-8, 160-pound senior inside linebacker delivered a big hit on Midway's second kickoff return last Friday. He took on two players, knocked one down and helped prevent the Raiders from breaking off a long run.

Norris slyly grinned as he recalled the play.

"I just saw the wedge form and I knew if they kept it, I had less of a chance of getting a tackle," Norris said. "They were in the middle of my lane that I had, so I did what I was supposed to do. "I knew it was a good, hard hit. I was real surprised to find the hammer."

Minor brought the tradition with him from Western Alamance.

At first, the players weren't quite sure why the hammer hung in his office and questions soon followed. Once Minor explained the meaning behind it, the players challenged each other week about who was going to get "the hit" and walk onto the field on game night with that symbol of pride in their hands.

Coaches review game film, submit their votes and then discuss who made the biggest play -- offense, defense special teams -- that proved crucial at some point in the game.

But the hammer signifies more than just a hard-work mentality. Norris sacrificed himself for the betterment of the team against Midway, an action that becomes a building brick in life.

"We talk about building a family one day," Minor said. "At the end of the year, I give each of the seniors a small hammer. It's saying here is their first tool as a man to go and start building your family. So we transition it from the power it shows on the field to building your family as a man when you graduate.

"Hopefully, you'll have your first tool in your toolbox and you'll always think about Princeton football and what it meant to you."

Norris certainly understands now.