Monday, July 16, 2012

Counting down the top Pitt football players of the last 40 years- No.37 Tom Tumulty

I will be counting down my own list of the top 50 Pitt football players since 1972.  I have spent time doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of people when formulating this list, but ultimately it is MY opinion.  The great thing about lists like this is that people will disagree, and feel free to, but just remember that there is no right answer so there's no need to go crazy if you do disagree.  I will post this same intro with all 50 bios because I know the one time I don't, people will complain about not knowing what criteria I used.  I will add at least one a day, maybe two.  

My criteria for selecting the order is as follows:

1.  Productivity.
2.  Talent.
3.  Place in program history.
4.  Only the player's careers while at Pitt are considered, not their NFL careers. 
5.  No current players.

37.  Tom Tumulty (1991-95)-  You really have to feel for this excellent linebacker.  Not only did he play on some of the program's worst teams in decades, but he also had major injury problems that eventually cost him him his football career at a young age.  And for a player who came to Pitt when no other great prospects wanted to, he should always deserve great respect from Pitt fans everywhere.

The Penn Hills linebacker was a 5-star prospect before they were called 5-star prospects, and he showed why in his freshman season when he started from the first snap of the first game.  That season resulted in 84 tackles and the first ever Big East Rookie of the Year award.  Things were looking up for the program, too, as the Panthers finished 6-5 for Paul Hackett in that 1991 season.

Unfortunately, Tumulty's second season was ruined by a painful torn pectoral muscle.  After that redshirt season, Hackett was fired and the second round of Johnny Majors started when Tumulty returned for his redshirt sophomore season.  The tough as nails linebacker didn't miss a beat in the opener as the Panthers eked out a surprise win at Southern Mississippi.  Not surprisingly Tumulty led the way with 17 tackles, a sack, and two interceptions, including the game winner with 34 seconds left in the game.  He ended the season with an even better 114 tackles but the Panthers season ended at a rather sad 3-8.

Two more poor seasons by the team followed as the Panthers had another 3-8 record in 1994 followed by a 1995 record of 2-9, but even through bad elbow and knee injuries, not to mention many other maladies, Tumulty ended his career with 413 tackles, good for fourth best all-time at the school.

After being taken in the 6th round by the Cincinnati Bengals, Tumulty had a brief, but productive career before having a knee injury eventually ended his football playing forever.  Ultimately one has to wonder how great Tumulty could have been had he played on of Pitt's best teams, and if he remained healthy throughout his career.


  1. I was at Pitt from the summer of 1988 to the summer of 1992 as a drummer in the band and at The Pitt News as a reporter/sports editor/managing editor. Even at the time, I called it the "Dark Ages of Pitt Athletics" — because it was clear that's what it was. The past glory was not coming back, at least not for me.

    I went to one bowl game (Sun/John Hancock Bowl). And watched as Paul Evans' squads disappointed year after year in the NCAAs. I liked Evans, though. He was ornery — and there's nothing wrong with that; his scowl at the refs was a thing of beauty.

    But I greatly respected Evans for many reasons, including this: After every game, win or lose, he'd have his team stand on the court as the pep band played the alma mater. If a player tried to drift toward the locker room, he'd either physically stop them — or just give them a stare. The latter was almost always enough. Since the drummers don't play during the alma mater, we'd sing. And when it was over, I'd always put my hand up as a show of thanks to Evans and the team for showing respect. And Evans would put his hand up in return. I'll never forget that. Total class. I haven't noticed any Pitt basketball team do the same since.

    ... where was I? Oh, yeah. Tumulty! Forgive the diversion. He was a great Panther, and deserves to be on this list. He played hard every down on some really bad teams, as Doke notes. But imagine how bad those teams would have been — and how dispirited the players and the fans would have been — without Tumulty giving his all and being a stand-up guy. Few high school stars dream of being a leader on a crummy team. But that was Tom's fate, and he never complained. He was also a classy, friendly young man to the media, fellow students and fans.

    I hope he's as proud of his Pitt career as his fans are.

  2. I was at Pitt from 1992-1995, some of the worst years in Pitt sports history for sure, but you always knew Tumulty was going to play hard and in most games would be the best player on the field, for either team. He was a great player.

  3. Anyone who ever had lunch at Johnny's Place in North Oakland knows of the table dedicated to Tom which displayed numerous photos and magazine covers of "Tom Terrific" or Tumultuous Tom!

    RIP Johnny's Place!

  4. I remember going to Johnny's Place for the first time and stealing beer glasses to take home with us that night because no bars in Oakland served beer in glasses...but then we brought them back the next night because we wanted Johnny to keep serving in glasses and dumbasses like us were the reason bars in Oakland didn't! I loved that place...and remember hanging out there with Bam Morris from the Steelers who would sit and eat about 400 wings in one sitting...good times.

  5. When I was at Woodland Hills, the 1st section game i ever pitched was against Penn Hills. The gigantic Tumulty smacked what had to be a 400' bomb up onto Greensburg Pike. I did throw at him next at bat. I threw two fastballs about 3 feet off the plate and then brushed him back. I had to make it look unintentional since I went about 200 lbs and he made me look like Verne troyer. Im no punk, but I wasn't stupid either.