Favorite athlete: Reggie White
Favorite team: Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Beating Bensalem and knocking them out of the playoffs.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I fell off the box for box jumps in the middle of the weight room.
Music on iPod: A little bit of everything.
Future plans: Attend college and study engineering.
Words to live by: “Everyone wants to eat, but no one wants to hunt.”
One goal before turning 30: Graduate college and start a steady job.
One thing people don’t know about me: I didn’t play a sport until middle school.
By GORDON GLANTZ
Google the term “late bloomer,” click on “images” and there is a good chance you will see Harry S Truman two-way lineman Tom Hirsch gazing back at you.
After not playing football until seventh grade at Franklin D. Roosevelt Middle School, the Univest Male Featured Athlete originally measured in around 5-10 or 5-11 and somewhere between 180 and 190 pounds and was pretty much “just a guy” as a backup on the junior varsity team at Truman.
The following year, as a sophomore, he was a starting for the JV squad and spotting in as a strictly special teams player for varsity.
The winds began to shift last season. Hirsch did not earn a starting job when the season began but was playing on special teams. Due to an injury, he found himself in the starting lineup at defensive end against a humungous offensive tackle.
“That was a baptism by fire for me,” he recalled. “But, after that game, I felt like I could hold my own. I got a lot more reps as a junior after that.”
Then came this past season, his last for the Tigers.
Bulked up to 6-1 and 225 pounds, Hirsch returned to defensive end and started on the offensive side of the ball for the first time at tackle.
And halfway through the season, due to injuries to the team’s co-captains, Hirsch earned a battlefield promotion to captain.
“Our two captains both had high-ankle sprains,” said Hirsch. “We didn’t have anyone to lead practice as a captain. As the season went, I had tried to step it up as a leader as much as possible anyway.”
But when he got the official word, it was a bit of a surprise.
“It was really unexpected,” he said. “It was a huge honor that Coach Jon Craig thought I could do it.
“I’m more of a leader by example, but you can’t just be under the radar anymore as a captain. I realized I had to be ‘that guy’ out there.
“I feel I did pretty well with it.”
Craig concurs with that assessment.
“He's a selfless leader who leads by example, encourages his teammates, and always supports them in their endeavors," the Tigers' coach said.
Coming on Strong
It was quite a journey, from JV backup to senior captain, and not even a 3-7 campaign – highlighted by a season-ending win over Bensalem to knock the Owls out of the district playoffs – could hinder his good vibrations.
“The season ended early,” he said, referring to the early start to accommodate playoffs and the lack of a Thanksgiving Day game. “It didn’t go exactly as planned. We definitely had a tough schedule, but I got to play and I played the best that I could.”
“This year, it definitely hit all at once. I kind of wish I had it over again, just so that I could experience it all over again.”
Reflecting back, Hirsch sees his ascension to prominence as a matter of just wanting it more than some other players who caught the eyes of Craig and the coaching staff out of the gate.
“When I was younger, when I didn’t even play a lot for JV, I was one of the weaker kids,” he said. “But other kids, they didn’t show up in the weight room. I showed up every day. It really worked out for me. I listened to everything (Craig) said, and seeing the results was the best way to prove myself.
“That’s my favorite part about football – seeing myself get stronger and better.”
What Hirsch may not yet realize is that he will leave as much of a legacy as any 1,000-yard rusher or 3,000-yard passer with Division I scholarship offers.
“Tom is the type of kid we like to point to in our program as one that benefits from hard work,” said Craig. “He did not find immediate success as a younger player but he worked hard in the offseason, gave us every bit of effort he could in practices throughout his career, and found himself as a two-way starter in his senior year.
“Tom quickly found himself as one of the top linemen in our program this year and took up nearly every rep on both offense and defense in all 10 games this season.”
What Craig admires most about Hirsch is that he is well-rounded.
“Tom is a multi-sport athlete, playing football and lacrosse, strong academically and a strong believer in his faith,” said Craig. “Tom will do great things in life as he moves forward my staff and I are excited to see what he does next and we are grateful we had a chance to work with him in our program.”
As with football, Hirsch came late to lacrosse. FDR didn’t have a team, so he didn’t start playing until ninth grade. He says his favorite of the two “depends what season it is” and that he enjoys playing defense.
A top-notch student who takes AP and “weighted” classes, he is an aspiring engineer – either in civil or electrical – and is currently weighing college options.
“I would love to play sports in college,” he said. “But my No. 1 priority, really, is academics. There is Temple, but I don’t think I’d be good enough to play there. I’m also looking at some smaller schools, like Eastern University and Liberty University.”
The applications he submits will show plenty of activities as well. Hirsch is a member of the Varsity Club, which is only open to varsity athletes with GPAs above 3.0 (his is in the 3.5-3.6 range) and the Key Club, which is involved in community service.
“I was in a few other small clubs,” he added, citing the Environmental Club and serving as a counselor for grade school kids.
And there is his involvement in the Christian Life Church in Bensalem, through which he has gone on mission trips such as working with the homeless in Washington, D.C.
“It’s something that definitely drives me,” he said of his faith. “I have a good relationship with my pastor, and I go to church every week.
“We also had a chapel at school that was optional for the players, and I’m good friends with a lot of the guys there. I guess this is why I’m looking at Christian colleges, like Eastern and Liberty. I’ve been impressed with how nice everyone is at Christian colleges, as compared to others.”
Sources of Inspiration
Whether or not he continues playing sports beyond an intramural or club level in college, he will leave Truman with a great amount of gratitude for all those who made his experience what it turned out to be after humble beginnings.
There is longtime teammate Tommy Guilliams, an offensive guard.
“He has always been next to me,” said Hirsch. “People get us confused as brothers. We started football together and ended together.”
And there is his family. Mom, Jennifer, is the president of the Booster Club. Dad, Tom Sr., is the team photographer.
“Everybody jokes about that,” said Hirsch, whose older sister, Madison, a college student in Kentucky is his “biggest fan” and former member of the Truman marching band. “If he takes 600 pictures, 400 of them will be of me.”
Hirsch also singled out quarterback Jorden Freeman, one of the captains who was injured and left a leadership void, as another “kid who just showed up and worked hard every day.”
And he said none of it would have been possible without offensive line coach Chase Reidger, who is “somebody we all look up to.”
Last but not least is Craig, who Hirsch says has been a “huge influence” on him, as well as the rest of the Tigers.
“I think we saw all Coach Craig more than our own parents,” he said. “He’s like a second dad. He cares about us all so much.
“He motivated, and pushed me, all the time. I feel that’s true of all our coaches, but especially Coach Craig. He seems like a tough guy who is kind of hard, but we really cares about us.”