The rest of the story...

Here's where I tell you all the stuff that wouldn't fit in a 2-minute TV story.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Whatever Happened to Touchdown Tommy?


"I was having a nervous breakdown on national television and no one could see it."
-- Tommy Edwards in our interview for John Carlin's Virginia.


We interviewed on his front porch in Roanoke.
Tommy Edward's story is an intricate one.  We all live complicated lives, but few among us have lived so close to the edge as Touchdown Tommy.

Let me explain what I mean by "edge."  There's an edge we think of as the "cliff."  Right now the entire nation is watching the president and congress to see if we can avoid going over the fiscal cliff.  That would be bad.

Tommy has certainly gone over the cliff several times in his life as he has battled mental illness, drugs and alcohol.  But there's another "edge" as well.  And that edge is only seen by folks who have talent beyond everyday people.  Tommy's talents have taken him to places most people could never achieve.  His edges are often as close to greatness as they are calamity.

Tommy does a hand plant.
Not only is he a celebrated football player, he is also an artist and musician who has played with some big time names.  He is an entrepreneur who has started companies and foundations. 

Tommy has seen higher highs and lower lows than 99-percent of us.  He's led the league in rushing.  He's created his own skateboard company.  He's recorded multiple CD's from his part-time home in Nashville.  But he's also suffered from too many bangs to the head (from football and skateboard accidents).  He suffers from mental illness that has not always been under control.  He's been homeless.

This is a tough story to tell in a TV news segment.  Tommy's story really deserves treatment in a longer form  -- a documentary, reality TV segment or a book.

In tv news we interview our subjects, do some research, take some video and put it on the news.  Tommy's doesn't fit very well in that format.  There's just too much.

Tommy keeping life "in balance"
What you DO get from a tv story, however is a measure of the person, just by watching the interview clips that make air.  You get a certain sense of the person that can't be described by the written word or still photos. In Tommy's case you will also see him balancing on a roller board, playing guitar and singing a song he wrote.  Life on the edge.  Or with the roller board, as Tommy puts it, "Life in balance."

And now, with the internet, I can share additional information about Tommy's talents by providing you with links to his Heart of Virginia Foundation, or his music.  Click here for a You Tube Video that shows some of his football prowess and ends with his musical talents.

As I write this, Tommy seems to be near new levels of achievement in two aspects of his multifaceted life.  His music, which is getting more and more attention, and his advocacy for help for people with mental illness -- specifically with respect to the mass shootings that dominate the headlines.  Tommy avers that society needs to recognize, embrace and help the people who suffer from treatable disorders or we will continue to suffer at the hands of deranged individuals who somehow believe that killing others is the solution to their problems.

He's sharing the dark side of his story as a call to action.

The hook for the TV story was pretty simple: Whatever happened to Touchdown Tommy?  What happened to the kid who seemed like a lock for the NFL even when he was at Radford High School? The tv story answers those questions, but who knows where the complicated story of his life will go next?  One day the world may look at the body of his work and say, " Wow, he was also a pretty good football player."




No comments:

Post a Comment