Starting strong safety Ammon Hannemann following in his brothers’ footsteps
Former Lone Peak High star didn’t pout or complain when cornerback Micah Harper was moved to safety — instead he went to work
Competing has been in Ammon Hannemann’s blood since the day he was born.
He joined an athletic family that included four older brothers who would go on to play college football and/or professional baseball or become fire knife dancers in Hawaiian luaus.
His parents, Howard and Mindy Hannemann, were outstanding high school athletes growing up in Hawaii (Howard) and Southern California (Mindy), respectively, and encouraged their five sons and one daughter, Shay, to compete aggressively before they could walk.
So when the fourth-year sophomore who started four games at strong safety for the BYU Cougars last year learned that it wasn’t a given he would be the Day 1 starter in 2022, he didn’t pout or complain.
“He has consistently gotten better and better and better, and he is playing at a high level right now, just understanding and anticipating things that happen on offense. He has certainly been a guy that has shown through last year and this fall camp that he is capable of doing that.” — BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki on strong safety Ammon Hannemann
He went to work.
It appears that hard work has paid off.
When BYU’s depth chart for next Saturday’s season-opener at USF is released Monday, Ammon Hannemann almost certainly will get the nod as the Cougars’ starting strong safety, running alongside veteran free safety Malik Moore.
“I would like to think I go into the first game as a starter, along with Malik, back there,” Hannemann told the Deseret News on Tuesday. “But I am not taking anything for granted. Camp just barely finished. I haven’t seen anything official yet.”
It would be fitting, considering the Hannemann name has become synonymous with BYU sports. Oldest brother Jacob Hannemann redshirted on BYU’s football team in 2012, then played so well for BYU’s baseball team the following spring that the Chicago Cubs picked him in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft.
Jacob Hannemann played in the Cubs and Seattle Mariners organizations until 2019. Second-oldest brother Kyle played football for Southern Utah University, while third-oldest brother Micah played safety and cornerback for BYU in 2012 and from 2015-17 before some brief stints in pro football.
Howard and Mindy’s fourth son, Seth, gave up football after sustaining three season-ending injuries in high school, but is said to be the best luau performer as part of his father’s Samoan ancestry.
“I’ve got a lot to live up to,” Ammon acknowledged.
He is well on his way, especially if he can avoid the injury bug that plagued his older brothers. Already, it has bitten him twice.
After graduating from Lone Peak High, as all his siblings did, Ammon served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Roseville, California. He redshirted in 2019.
In 2020, he tore his meniscus in spring camp, rehabbed through the summer, and then tore it again right before the season.
“Luckily it was my meniscus and not my ACL,” Ammon said. “The first time, I came back quickly and the second time it took a lot longer to recover from.”
The injury sidelined him for the entire 2020 season when the Cougars went 11-1 and rode Zach Wilson’s spectacular season to national prominence. Last year, he played in 10 games, starting against South Florida, Utah State, Boise State and Baylor.
He had three games with at least five tackles, and made six solo stops in the 34-20 win over Utah State.
Which brings us to 2022, and expectations are high for the BYU secondary.
“The coaches have been pushing us hard, but they have also brought some great people in like sports scientists to help us stay healthy,” Ammon said. “There haven’t been many injuries, which has really been a blessing. Everybody has been working on their craft, and doing great.”
Ammon and his wife, Linzie, were married in 2021 and they have a daughter, Ivie. And now he’s the only Hannemann involved in organized sports and keeping the family’s tradition of competitiveness going.
“I feel 100% and am ready for the first game,” Ammon said. “I am excited for it to happen. It is weird because I am the only Hannemann playing sports right now — at least until the next generation comes along.”
Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said Hannemann won the starting job because he is consistent and reliable.
“He has consistently gotten better and better and better, and he is playing at a high level right now, just understanding and anticipating things that happen on offense,” Tuiaki said. “He has certainly been a guy that has shown through last year and this fall camp that he is capable of doing that.”
Last spring, coaches moved Micah Harper from cornerback to safety, giving Moore and Hannemann some competition. However, Harper hasn’t quite recovered fully from the knee injury that sidelined him the entire 2021 season.
“With him being there, I feel like he gives us a great two-deep. The two-deep on defense plays just because of the nature of the game and what is expected of them,” Tuiaki said. “Those two (Harper and Hannemann) are going to do a good job for us this year and bring a lot of competitiveness and just what we need at the strong safety spot.”