BY CARMEN SIERING
Whether he’s talking about playing football for Indiana University or his career as a spinal surgeon, Dr. John Hammerstein emphasizes the necessity of having drive and determination to be successful. He credits Bill Mallory, IU’s winningest football coach, as a guiding influence in his life.
Hammerstein, 39, who practices with PremierOrtho, played for Mallory from 1991 to 1996. He says he came to Bloomington unsure of his future but feels everything came together under Mallory’s guidance.
“I wasn’t a great student in high school,” says the native of Wapakoneta, Ohio. “I didn’t have direction or focus. But it all kicked in at IU, and Coach Mallory was the impetus for that.”
Redshirted his first year, Hammerstein was a starter his final three years on the team, something he didn’t expect. “I didn’t know if I had the size, the strength, or the speed,” he says. “I was about 235 pounds, playing nose guard in the Big Ten. So I went from not knowing if I was even going to play to starting for three years.”
Hammerstein’s football career was remarkable in other ways, as well. He was a two-time Academic All-America selection and four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection. For Hammerstein, however, the most important honor was more personal: being voted captain by his teammates his senior year.
“These are the people you spend every waking hour with, so it meant a lot to me to be selected,” he says.
Hammerstein graduated from IU in 1996 and later attended IU School of Medicine, where he met his wife, Jeanette, who is now an emergency room physician at Monroe Hospital. They have two daughters: Hazel, 5, and Lila, 3.
Hammerstein went to Michigan State University to complete his orthopedic surgery residency and the Spine Institute of Arizona for spine fellowship training.
The drive to succeed as an athlete translates to surgery, says Hammerstein. “There are times, in a ten-hour surgery, when you wonder if you can keep going, and athletics is the key,” he says. “My athletic background has helped me keep going and push through for my patients.”