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Northern Illinois hires former star running back Thomas Hammock as coach

FILE - This is a June 22, 2017, file photo showing Thomas Hammock of the Baltimore Ravens NFL football team. Northern Illinois has hired former star running back Thomas Hammock as its head coach. Hammock is taking over at his alma mater after spending 16 seasons as a college and NFL assistant — the past five as the Baltimore Ravens' running backs coach. (AP)

DEKALB, Ill. — Northern Illinois hired former star running back Thomas Hammock as its head coach.

Hammock is taking over at his alma mater after spending 16 seasons as a college and NFL assistant, the last five as the Ravens’ running backs coach. With the hiring, announced Friday, he becomes the first African-American head football coach at NIU.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to have the opportunity to come home to a place that I love, to the school that has meant so much to me,” Hammock said. “I can’t wait to get started with the players and have a chance to put a product on the field that the alumni and fans will be proud of.”

Hammock fills a vacancy that opened last week when Rod Carey left for Temple after leading the Huskies to a 52-30 record and six bowl games in seven seasons.

Scott Walstrom/NIU Imaging Thomas Hammock from Northern Illinois University.

Hammock ran for 2,432 yards at NIU from 1999-2002 and was first-team All-MAC two times. He was a Huskies assistant from 2005-06 and worked at Minnesota and Wisconsin before joining the Ravens’ staff in 2014.

Baltimore finished in the top 11 in rushing in three of his five seasons. The Ravens were second this year, averaging 152.6 yards.