"How is college life so far?"
"It's fun but it's also a lot of work. School is a lot harder than I expected, there is so much more reading than we had in high school. I'm taking math, computer programming, freshman writing and a law & public policy course. The writing class is really hard because they are trying to inflict the good skills we need for writing but the essays are tough. I'm more of a math and science guy but I'm getting better with my writing."
"Tell us about your workout schedule."
"I lift four days a week with the team for two hours each day. I usually do my lifting from 6 to 8 in the morning and on Tuesdays and Thursday we run as conditioning for 90 minutes both days. I also kick each day for two hours, my long snapper (Matt Hayward) and I go to the field and kick for 90 minutes until my leg gets tired and then I work for 30 minutes on just catching and molding the snaps."
"How are you kicking?"
"I'm really in a groove right now. I've had to work a lot on my directional kicking because in high school I would just kick it straight unless I was trying to pooch it out of bounds. Now the coaches want me to kick for distance but I also need to keep every ball inside one of the hashmarks so we can use the sideline as a defender. The first week I struggled a little but now I'm focused on facing my feet and hips in the direction I want to kick and as long as the snap is right I should be OK. The coaches were talking to me about my get off time and so far I've been able to get that timing down real good. I can't believe how much stronger my leg is after working with Coach Carlisle, even the shanks are going 40 yards."
"Talk about the workouts with Carlisle."
"He's been great. He specializes everybody's workout and normally for a kicker you don't do all the same drills but he's worked it so that I'm doing what everybody else is doing only he added some flexibility exercises which have really helped me and we also work on my balance with proprioception drills. The coaches are always so fired up, I met the new coach Tim Davis before one of my morning workouts and it wasn't even 6 in the morning but he was all pumped up, talking about going for the Rose Bowl, it was great."
"Who will be coaching the special teams and what have they told you about your role."
"Kennedy Pola will still oversee the special teams and he will run the meetings but we'll have someone who will chart plays and work with us in practice when he needs to be with the running backs. Right now I will be punting and holding on kicks but I'm not sure about kickoffs. We have a few walk on kickers that might handle kickoffs but it's still a possibility that I'll be doing that. I really like holding, I haven't done it since my freshman year but it sets up nicely for me since Dave (Davis) is a lefty and I'm right handed."
"Who are the leaders of the team from what you've seen in the workouts?"
"I've been really impressed with how awesome everybody is. I work out with different people during each workout and it's amazing how strong they all are. Kareem Kelly, he's been really impressive and so has Kenechi Udeze. Troy Polamalu, he's a really quiet guy who leads by example but he's always the one who is pushing you when you're running and feel like you're about to throw up and he'll be there pumping you up to finish. Kevin Arbet, he's one of the vocal guys, all the seniors are really active. The coaches are fired up because they say we are way ahead of where they were at this time last year."
"Are you roommates with Brandon Hancock?"
"We live in the same suite but at the end of the semester we'll be moving into a house together along with BKU."
"What are your goals for spring ball?"
"To prove myself. I'm really excited for the spring because all the players have been so good to me, there's been no freshman problems or anything and now I want to show what I can do. The main part of spring for me will be to get my timing down. We can work all we want on the practice field in the off season but the fact is I don't know what it's like to face a live college rush and there's no way to practice that kind of speed until I get out there."
"Have you ever successfully executed a fake punt?"
"No, I never had the chance. We worked on it all the time in high school but the opportunity never came."
"What are the pros and cons of entering school early?"
"The pros are that it's such a head start. I already know the people on the team from being here and I can make the transition now in terms of learning all that goes on with college life. If I was doing this in the fall and trying to compete in football it would be really hard but now I can get this adjustment out of the way and when September comes it will all just flow. I'm also getting credits for school and that's important but I think I'm going to change my major. I was planning on majoring in engineering but that might be a little much so I'm thinking about kiniesology because that would carry over into nutrition and information I could use for football. As far as any cons to coming in early, I can't really think of any, it's been great so. The social life is fun and there's just so much to do. I'm really having fun."
Tom will be attending the National Football Foundation banquet on Sunday where he is being honored as a Scholar Athlete from the Inland Empire region. The National Football Foundation selects 1,200 athletes each year from across the country and each player's name is enshrined at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, IN. Congratulations, Tom.