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Out of Bounds: An interview with Tommy Maddox

Monday, October 14, 2002

By Dan Gigler, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Quick! Read this! We know how fickle yinz can be so by the time this hits print, you might have quit the "TOM-MY! TOM-MY!" chants and the No. 8 jersey that you saved the receipt for is on its way back to Dick's. Never mind that his journey from UCLA quarterback prodigy to NFL backup to insurance salesman to Arena and XFL star to giving-it-one-more-shot-at-the-NFL to sweetheart of the black-and-gold legions is probably just a slightly more interesting career trajectory than your own and a good story already, regardless of the outcome. The cool thing is though, a new chapter gets written every week ...

GIGS: With all the hype about what you went through to get here, are people losing sight of idea that you would like to stay for a while?

TOMMY: Yeah. I think that everyone wants to talk about the past and I've said all along that the past is the past. I mean 10 years ago seems like another lifetime ago. This is kind of my second career and I plan on being here as long as I can. I'm not just content with just making it back.

GIGS: Did you ever think, "this just isn't worth it?"

TOMMY: No, I really didn't. It was frustrating at times, but the other side is more frustrating than this. I think you lose sight of that sometimes. I went and worked a real job for a while and all of a sudden I was like, "playing football for a living isn't bad." It's something I've always loved to do. There's always going to be frustrating times but it never got to the point where I was like, "I don't think this is worth it."

GIGS: What kept you going?

TOMMY: The fact that I really still believed in my heart that I could do it. If there was a point where I was like, "I don't know if I still got it, I don't know if I can still do it," then yeah, I probably would have thought harder about giving it up or whatever. But in my heart of hearts, I always knew that I still had the talent to play and I still had the ability to play, so I wanted to keep giving it a shot. I tell people all the time that earlier in my career, if I had gotten a chance to start for two years and it didn't work out, it would have been easier to walk away. But I just felt like I never had that opportunity. And I felt like if I did have that opportunity, then I would have been successful.

GIGS: Unfinished business, then. It just would have nagged and ate at you ...

TOMMY: Yeah, I just never had the opportunity. I sat behind [John] Elway for three years in Denver and you don't get to play a whole lot ...

GIGS: He was pretty good, huh right?

TOMMY: [laughs] He's not bad. But that was frustrating. And that kept me going.

GIGS: What's it like to be the toast of the town?

TOMMY: I think it's probably different for a lot of other people than it is for me. I've got a great wife, I've got two kids at home -- that's my life. When I leave here and go home, the kids don't care what I do. They just want me to play with them and ride bikes with them. My wife wants me to be a good husband. They help me keep things in perspective

GIGS: How many other guys' wives would have said, "Sorry pal, playtime's over. Pack it in. Time to grow up?"

TOMMY: If it wasn't for my wife, I wouldn't be able to do this. She's packed the kids and the family up and moved across the country three or four times. When I came here and was going to give it another shot, I know there was a part of her that probably didn't want me to, because she's seen all the ups and downs and didn't want me to go though that again, but she said, "if that's what you feel like you want to do then I'm OK with it, and I'll support you and let's go." To have that kind of confidence and stability at home really helps.

GIGS: What have you learned from all this?

TOMMY: I think I've learned how to be a better person, a better husband and a better father. I respect things more and I don't take things for granted.

GIGS: What rule would you bring from XFL or Arena ball into this league?

TOMMY: There were two that had the most impact. You had to return a kick whether it was in the end zone or not. There were no touchbacks -- you had to return it. Second, was that punts were live after 15 yards. It brought a lot of plays into it and fourth down it wasn't just a wasted down.

You saw a lot of guys trying to pooch punt it to a spot and the guys would go after it -- it was a big play. Those were the two that I thought really changed the game more than anything.

GIGS: You and Jermaine Copeland had the connection in L.A. Are you going to push for Steelers to sign him?

TOMMY: No, we're doing all right with receivers. I was really lucky in that league, I had Jermaine and Darnell McDonald -- we had a great receiving corps. But this is definitely the best top-to-bottom receiving team I've ever played on. We've got not only a lot of talent, we've got veteran talent, we've got young talent, we've got a wide variety of guys out there that can make plays.

GIGS: Obligatory juvenile question about babes: Which XFL team had the best cheerleaders?

TOMMY: I don't know. That was probably overblown more than anything, but we never really saw them. They were for the TV.

GIGS: Worst Arena/XFL road trip experiences?

TOMMY: We didn't get meals in Arena. We didn't have a per diem. The XFL really treated us pretty well, except the only thing that stunk was that we had to fly commercial, so you'd get a 300-pound player stuck in between a wife and a husband.

GIGS: Why didn't you think of something clever for your jersey like "He Hate Me?"

TOMMY: Actually they were going to put "T. Gun" on the back of mine, and I told them they couldn't. It didn't bother me that other guys did it, but for me, it didn't fit my personality.

GIGS: Did you hate He Hate Me?

TOMMY: I only met him once, but I hated playing against him. He was a good back.

GIGS: Do you recommend whole or term life?

TOMMY: Right now, term life. Whole isn't doing real good. We used to sell a lot of universal, but with the market not doing good you can get a lot of term for cheap.

GIGS: Harder to read -- NFL defenses or actuarial tables?

TOMMY: Anything that has to do with the insurance business is harder than the football business.

GIGS: All-time favorite underdog story/person/movie?

TOMMY: Probably the movie that just came out, "The Rookie." My wife and I sat there watching it and a lot of things that happened in his life were things that we had gone through. There were a lot of things in it that really touched home with us.

GIGS: Who plays Tommy Maddox in the "Tommy Maddox story?"

TOMMY: That's a good one. I don't know. Somebody tall, ugly and fat. [laughs]

GIGS: Will we see a Chunky Soup ad from all of this?

TOMMY: Probably not.

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