V I E W   F R O M   T H E   H I L L T O P

September 10, 2009

In My Life

Guest blogger Tom Thees '83, on the eve of the first home football weekend of the season, shares some personal thoughts about one of his former coaches who will be recognized during the upcoming weekend by many former players returning for the annual Scotty Glacken Memorial Football Game.

Could I imagine myself not having gone to GTown? I guess I can, but this reflection is more about people who've impacted me along the way.

Could I imagine myself not having gone to GTown? I guess I can, but this reflection is more about people who've impacted me along the way. Perhaps these thoughts will get you to think about and remember the people who sent you off in a direction of aspiration and motivation that you never quite appreciated -- until one day you wonder about where you are and how you got there, and you realize -- IT WASN'T ALL YOU!

It certainly wasn't -- and isn't -- all me. It was part luck, fortune, fate, and at the right moments in time, it was SOMEONE-- coming out of their world and entering mine with a selfless, giving heart!

Okay, so I pretty much grew up winning-- and that had to be pure luck! It wasn't MY skill. My first two baseball teams in Toms River, NJ lost a total of like three games in two years. I was eight and nine years old at the time.

My parents taught me to say please and thank you, my coaches taught me to say Yes Sir! and No Sir! And they all taught me to have appropriate respect-- earned respect--for everyone. Elderly people deserved it. So did teachers and coaches. And so did shopkeepers.

Mom and Dad had a few simple rules-- don't cheat, don't lie, don't steal, and don't curse (and calling people names was cursing too). I never heard my mom or dad curse. Oh, and one more rule -- always help ladies with the groceries -- and NEVER accept anything for it. Simple? Yes, but occasionally I needed to re-learn it all a little bit better.

That brings me to my Rutgers/GEORGETOWN story.

My coaches also had a big impact in forming my standards and my beliefs--especially in my confidence in my own ability to do anything. But sometimes there is that someone who happens in your life at the right time and plays a role they don't EVEN KNOW how big.

Like the SECOND time I didn't get into Georgetown. OH -- you don't know about the first time either! Unlike the first time when I got completely rejected, this time I was merely "wait-listed," a near-permanent state of college purgatory. I was pissed!! I mean, c'mon -- nothing but A+'s at Rutgers, good guy and all, and they WAIT-listed me. It was the summer of 1979 and I was in Seattle, Washington working by selling books door-to-door. I didn't think I'd make enough money to pay for Georgetown (it cost about $7,000 back then) by working my standard job on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. So there I was in Seattle, selling my butt off to pay for the school that didn't even want me -- even though the football coach said they did and that they were "working" on it.

I'll SHOW THEM, I thought -- I'll just stay at Rutger's and SHOW THEM!

And then I finally get a call, from this guy I really don't know. His name is Jay Calabrese. Coach Calabrese, whose wife or mother-in-law was from Toms River, was calling me with good news.

He was congratulating me because it's late July, 1979 and I've been accepted to the school I was thinking all along that I was going to attend: Georgetown University.

Well, I answered, I kinda already told my Mom I'm not worrying about GTown ANYMORE! And he then spends a few valuable minutes of his life trying make me understand the pivotal moment I am at IN MY LIFE."

Little did I know....

This was one of those moments where I am thankful today that I decided to get off the "high horse" I was on, and MOVE ON. I called Coach Calabrese back the next day, and I said thank you to him. I told him that I looked forward to playing for him and Coach Glacken at Georgetown.

HOW BIG were those minutes from Coach Calabrese? Let's just say that I had never heard of Wall Street growing up in Toms River! Or during my brief time at Rutgers. We never wanted for anything when I was young, but my parents didn't own a home, let alone stocks. And so sure enough, Coach Jay Calabrese said enough that day to convince me I had to give GTown a shot.

But, to be clear, it WAS -- and it is -- one of the key moments in my life. Because I DID find Wall Street and the job I loved, I did GO to the school I was meant to be at, and I did get to say "YES Sir" a few more years on the football field.

And of all the people who might have had some impact on that, I know there is one person who had a HUGE impact -- Coach Jay C. I have told him so in person and also in a letter about nine years ago.

I cannot imagine if Jay Calabrese had simply said "okay Tom, good luck at Rutgers" and had a one minute phone call and went back to his life and his family and his kids. He certainly could have. Instead, he spent 15 minutes on the phone trying to make me understand where I was, and where I had the chance to be going. Young Tom from PODUNK Catholic high school in Toms River, NJ -- YO, buddy, WAKE UP!

And I almost, almost missed it.

I continue to remember today the many people that have positively impacted me with their time, especially Coach Jay Calabrese talking me down from my high horse. I am thankful to all of them, and have directly told them just that.

So take a moment to reflect on those pivotal moments-- and who impacted you----and share it if you choose.



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