Deven Hammond transferred from LSU to play football at Southern Mississippi with the hopes of earning a full scholarship.
But that dream never became reality after team officials learned he was born with only one kidney. The university's decision to keep him off the field prompted Hammond to sue Southern Miss, according to a civil rights complaint filed this week in federal district court in Baton Rouge.
Hammond, a standout player for Port Allen High School, joined the LSU football team in 2015. While there Hammond said he was recruited by Southern Mississippi coach Dan Disch, asking for his help to rebuild a team set to lose several graduating seniors.
The lawsuit claims Disch promised that if Hammond earned a spot as second string or better, he'd be granted a full scholarship.
Hammond chose to withdraw from LSU to transfer to Southern Miss in 2017, requiring him to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Hammond, who said he took online classes and sold his car in anticipation of his move to Hattiesburg, completed a physical upon arriving at Southern Miss but later revealed to the head athletic trainer he had just one kidney. At that point he was pulled from practice and not cleared to play to due the "liability" of the condition, according to the complaint.
"At first I was still trying to search for answers," said Hammond in a report from The Hattiesburg American. "It hit me, it struck me as I was like in a nightmare and somebody pinch me and wake me up."
Despite recommendations from a kidney specialist that there should be no restrictions on his play, the university continued to decline to clear him. The court documents also allege that Hammond inquired to transfer to Middle Tennessee State, but it responded that Southern Miss had informed them he had failed a physical; Hammond said that claim is false, according to court filings.
Southern Miss officials were advised not to comment on the subject due to the pending litigation, according to the Hattiesburg American.
Hammond's lawsuit, citing violations of the American Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act, names Disch, Southern Miss and the athletic program as plaintiffs. Hammond is represented by the law offices of William Most and Bizer & DeReus, civil rights firms located in New Orleans.
Hammond is seeking undisclosed damages, attorney fees and related expenses, and any further relief deemed appropriate, the lawsuit says.