BROOKSVILLE — In a hot room packed with people, a Hernando defensive back sat at a table with a former NFL player at his side. In front of him, a letter of intent and an orange pen. He wore a black T-shirt from his new school, with “T.J. Grant” already printed across the back.
Troy Grant Hambrick signed his letter of intent with Highland Community College on Friday, continuing his family’s tradition of college play.
The Times selected Hambrick’s father — also named Troy — as the No. 6 greatest high school player in Pasco County history in 1999. His uncle, Darren, was given the top spot.
“You put pressure on the kids,” Hambrick’s father said. “They want to be like their fathers.”
In 1992, Troy and Darren Hambrick helped Pasco win the North Suncoast’s only state championship. His father signed with South Carolina and transferred to Savannah State before playing five seasons in the NFL. He appeared for the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals, racking up 2,170 rushing and 276 receiving yards in 61 games.
From the time the youngest of the Hambrick clan started for the Leopards in 2012, observers said the lanky receiver had potential. He made the Times’ all-North Suncoast second-team defense in 2012. He also was an honorable mention on the 2013 track team.
“I wanted him to pave his own way,” his father said.
Highland was Troy Grant Hambrick’s choice, not his family’s, but his father said he supports his son’s decision as long as he can get a good education.
Though he comes from a long line of college — and professional — athletes, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Hambrick said he’s the first in his family to choose a junior college. This knowledge gave him mixed feelings of carrying on a tradition and striking out on his own.
Highland is a two-year junior college in Kansas. The Scotties recently hired Aaron Arnold as coach and earned their first playoff appearance last season.
Hambrick hopes his time with the Scotties will help him improve and stand out, and his ultimate goal is to make it to an NFL team. Any will do, but he has a favorite.
“I have to say the Seahawks,” Hambrick said with a smile. “I love defense.”