Nearing the end of his high school football career, Tom McCormick saw his dream of earning a Division I football scholarship slowly diminishing. He received offers from several smaller schools, but only garnered interest from one D1 program—Florida State University. He wasn’t offered a scholarship, nor was he guaranteed a varsity spot; however, he had the opportunity to show FSU coaches that he deserved to be a Seminole.
With encouragement from his father and Bill Shaw, an FSU defensive line coach at the time, Tom joined the Florida State football team as a walk-on player in the summer of 1980 under legendary coach Bobby Bowden. By spring of 1981, Tom earned not only a scholarship and the starting center position, but also an Associated Press All-American honorable mention—a title he would also receive in 1982 and 1983. Yet, none of this came easy.
“At one point after the season my freshman year, I looked at leaving,” Tom admitted. “They wanted me to change positions to the offensive line and—having never played on the offensive line, I didn’t think that I would be successful.”
Tom was able to overcome this self-doubt and achieve his football dreams with the encouragement of his father who told him to never give up.
“He was a coach on the sidelines and he watched every play.” Tom said. “His big thing was loyalty and live by your word, and that’s what I do in my work life and my family life.”
Dr. Bryon McCormick, Tom’s father, practiced urological medicine for more than 35 years in Panama City, Fla. A father of six, Dr. McCormick was the little league football and baseball coach for his sons, Tom and Mike, as they grew up. When they went on to play football at Bay High School, their father was the team’s doctor. Dr. McCormick was a major supporter of athletics in the Bay County area, providing free physicals to various schools and sports leagues.
“Every athletic event he was there. He was always involved, always working,” Tom said. “Long after we graduated and moved away, my father was always involved in athletics in Panama City.”
From the time Tom arrived at Florida State, his parents never missed a game. No matter where he went, his family was always there—whether it was in Doak Campbell Stadium or away in Nebraska, Gainesville or Pittsburgh. Dr. McCormick was a Golden Chief and loved going to Florida State games from the moment his son first stepped on the field, until his death in 1998.
Recently, Tom established the Dr. Byron McCormick Endowed Scholarship in honor of his father. Tom, a College of Engineering graduate, designated that the scholarship go to student athletes within the engineering program who do not have an athletic scholarship and are in good academic standing.
“I loved the college experience and everything it stood for,” Tom said. “Being an athlete at FSU was a highlight of my college life. You go to school, sweat and bleed with a group of guys working for a common goal—whether it was winning a game or working toward a degree.”
There are nearly 500 student athletes enrolled at Florida State—bringing in waves of students, alumni and fans to cheer for the garnet and gold. Athletic ability is apparent, but the hardships these students face off the court, track and field are much more than just defeating the opposing team—it’s the struggle of balancing athletics, academics and even finances.
More than half of student athletes receive some type of athletic scholarship for tuition, books and other college expenses. Yet, many student athletes don’t have the financial backing from their athletic program and are forced to depend on their families or find a part-time job to ease their financial burdens—something Tom hopes to help alleviate.
“It’s difficult to balance the workload. When I walked on we probably had 20 or 30 other walk-ons, but by my senior year only four of the original group remained. Some just can’t make the time sacrifices,” Tom explained. “I wanted to give back because I know what it’s like to struggle as a young athlete that didn’t get the attention out of high school, or hadn’t fully matured yet. Kids change a lot in college and give a lot back to the University, so I just want to help them.”
After pursuing a professional football career for approximately two years, Tom returned to Florida State and worked as a student coach while completing his civil engineering degree. The 1987 graduate is now President of Oil & Gas for CB&I, an energy infrastructure focused company where he is responsible for project operations, as well as marketing and sales of its products and services.
Tom also serves on the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Advisory Council that meets quarterly to keep the program up-to-date with what would be expected of engineering graduates.
“I wanted to get involved and try to help guide the engineering school about what it’s like in the real world and bring insight into that,” Tom said. “The College of Engineering certainly helped me in my career and advancement, so it’s just another way to give back my time.”
1981 FSU Football Media Guide
Tom McCormick, 6-2, 225, C, Panama City—Another walk-on story, he came to the Tribe without a scholarship in the fall of ’80 and his only duty was with scout and junior varsity teams. His scout team efforts drew the attention of the coaching staff and he was named defensive scout team MVP. This fall the coaching staff elected to try him at center and he worked his way into the backup role to Bob Merson. Line coach George Henshaw says McCormick “has good quickness and is intelligent.” He made improvement each day in spring drills and impressed head coach Bobby Bowden enough that he will have a scholarship when fall practice begins. Born August 26, 1962.