Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Former Jaguars Linebacker Tom McManus
Lessons from his father about toughness, determination and morality
helped him make the decisions that led to success
Tom McManus has always been tough, both mentally and physically. As a father and husband, he’s tough on himself to live up to the fine example his father set. As a linebacker with the Jacksonville Jaguars for five years, he was tough enough to play through injuries and to fight his way to the starting line-up. And even as a boy, he was tough.
But being tough wasn’t about physically intimidating other people, he emphasizes. It’s about standing up for what you believe in and having the courage to do the right thing, even when circumstances can make that seem insurmountably challenging.
Time and again, in talking about the successes in his past – as a college player for Boston College, as a free agent drafted eventually by Jacksonville, and even into his post-football life – Tom invokes the memory of his father. At times of uncertainty, he would call his father and ask for advice. And he always followed it, because his father was always certain of his beliefs and always followed his moral compass. Raised with his older siblings in a comfortable Chicago suburb , he was always a good athlete and one known for his ability to endure pain. “My sophomore year in high school, I played the last two games of the season with stress fractures in both feet,” he said. “If I had an injury that I could play through, I would. Sometimes you just have to tough it out.”
Perseverance, both physical and mental, would continue to be a theme in his life as Tom grew up. He received a full scholarship to Boston College but was frustrated not to be able to make the starting lineup on their football team. “They had a very good player a couple years ahead of me, and I was always backup for him. It was really frustrating.”
A lot changed with the arrival of a Boston College new coach, Tom Coughlin. Though the new coach would leave an indelible mark on Tom McManus’ life, setting him on a path for success that ultimately led to the pros, Tom is blunt about what it was like to train under Coach Coughlin. “I never threw up so much in my life,” he says. “He came in with military style. This was winter conditioning, and it was one of the most physically challenging, emotionally challenging, and mentally challenging experiences I’ve ever gone through.”
Despite what turned into a strong college career, he missed out on being drafted in 1993 and had little success with professional football opportunities that came in the next couple of years. But then his college coach, Tom Coughlin, accepted a position with the Jacksonville Jaguars and invited Tom to come try out for the team. “I went into it saying this is my last chance, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got, I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to make an impression. This is my only shot.”
His fortitude paid off. Tom made the team, and even though the Jaguars didn’t post a great year – 4 and 12 – he had a wonderful time. His parents and brothers visited him frequently in Jacksonville, and he enjoyed being able to spend some of his newfound income on them, taking them out to dinner often and buying his father a new TV and stereo set for his birthday.
And just as his career was climbing toward its pinnacle, his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Given the choice between a likely six months to live with treatment or two months without, Tom’s father opted not to be treated. He died a month later.
It was a time of intense grieving for Tom and his family, but Tom also remembers moments of astounding grace. He remembers being amazed by the number of people who attended his father’s funeral. “It doesn’t matter how much money you made or whether you were a professional athlete,” he reflected. “What matters is what people are going to say about you when you’re gone and how they’re going to remember you.” The 1996 season, following his father’s death, was when he became a full-time starter for the Jaguars, starting 15 games including three playoff games and finishing third on the team in tackles, with a total of 119. Tom played one of the best games of his career in a win against the Denver Broncos which left them one game from the Super Bowl.
In 1999, he played his last game, due to a severed tendon. “But I wouldn’t trade those five years for anything. It was a great ride,” he says. “Besides, I wouldn’t have met my wife if I hadn’t been in Jacksonville. We have a wonderful marriage and three daughters.”
Today, Tom designs motivational seminars for executives, is putting together a reality show based on fitness competitions, and hosted a sports/entertainment show for TV and radio called “Tom McManus Uncensored.” He has started an official movement called “Suck It Up!,” intended to challenge and energize people through stories of courage, strength of character, hard work and success – the characteristics that have always meant the most to him. Even more meaningful to him, though, is the book he wrote about lessons learned from his father, “We’ll Always Be Pals,” which may soon become a feature film. Tom is also a Managing Director of The Inman Company, a private investment banking and consulting firm in Jacksonville and Atlanta. He oversees their Sports, Leisure, and Entertainment practice.
With his determination, his ability to accept life’s setbacks, and his adherence to moral values, Tom displays the best qualities of an Insightful Player® team member.
Tom McManus’ Guiding Principles:
Have faith. Faith comes to you in two ways. One is from the heavenly father. God helps those who help themselves. And the second part of it is to have faith in yourself.
Work on yourself first. Take an honest look in the mirror. Hold yourself accountable before you hold anyone else accountable. Take ownership of your life. It’s all up to you and your attitude. Change is one positive attitude away. To that end, make health and fitness a priority. As we say in the NFL, when you look sharp, you play sharp.
Always stay open to continuous learning. Learn from your mistakes and learn from your successes. Sometimes things don’t work out and sometimes they do, and both are equally important. What matters is how you handle success and how you handle defeat. Be humble in victory and be gracious in defeat.
Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from trying. “No” really means “not right now.” Have no regrets; make no excuses. Dream big. If it doesn’t work out, go after a different dream.
You have to be tough, both mentally and emotionally. Life is difficult. Bad things happen. Things don’t work out. Dreams don’t come true. People die. But to use a boxing metaphor, we all get knocked down and it’s up to you to get back up.
Care about your legacy and how people see you. What kind of person are you and how do you treat others – as a parent, as a spouse, as a boss, as an employee? How do you want to be remembered? Picture your own funeral. How many people are going to be there and how will they feel about you? What would the film of your life look like? You get to decide. Make it happen the way you want it to happen.
The Insightful Player® series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Hall of Fame Master Certified Personal and Business Coach and Author of her newly released book,INSIGHTFUL PLAYER: Football Pros Lead A Bold Movement of Hope. Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr. Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills. The Insightful Player® initiative was created to help make our world a much better place by inspiring youth. To contact Chrissy Carew visit http://www.insightfulplayer.com or call 603-897-0610
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Former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Tom McManus is a valued member of the Insightful Player® team. To be named to this team, one must be a person of integrity, such as a current or former NFL player, who shares their personal message of hope for the sole purpose of lifting the spirits of all, especially children.