Head Coach Tom Gilmore
Mark Seliger Photography
Mark Seliger Photography
Head Coach Tom Gilmore

From Student To Teacher

Holy Cross Athletics   05-04-2017

By Emily Iannaconi
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Tom Gilmore is heading into his 14th season as the head football coach at Holy Cross and his teams have finished with a winning record in eight of his 13 seasons with the Crusaders. His drive for winning did not start at Holy Cross though. As an Academic All-American at the University of Pennsylvania, Gilmore helped lead the Quakers to three consecutive Ivy League titles. Due to his incredible contributions as a defensive lineman at Penn, Gilmore will be one of 15 men and women who will be inducted in to the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame this Saturday, May 6.

For a long time though, Gilmore was not even sure that he would attend college. Growing up, Gilmore had not heard of Penn and college was not something that was on his radar.

A Life-Changing Experience
Gilmore was a first-generation high school student in his family and he grew up in the inner-city of Philadelphia where going to college was uncommon. Gilmore was exposed to the college process through his older brother, Jim, who was highly recruited to play football. “When he was getting all of that recruiting attention during his senior year, that opened my eyes,” explained Gilmore. “I think that opened the door for me because those same recruiters came back to check out me.” His brother played for Ohio State and went on to play in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins.

Gilmore did not have the typical recruiting experience though. He did not visit Penn until mid-March of his senior year. “The visit consisted of me taking the subway down after school, after wrestling season had ended,” said Gilmore. “They wanted to show me around campus before it got too dark.”

If it was not for the persistence of Penn defensive line coach Ed Zubrow, the man responsible for recruiting Gilmore, the future two-time All-American may not have attended college. He is therefore incredibly thankful. “When I think about the whole college process, the emotion that comes to my mind is gratitude,” said Gilmore.

A three-time All-Ivy League selection, Gilmore received the Asa S. Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Player of the Year following his senior season in 1985, and was one of only two linemen to ever claim the honor before it was divided into offensive and defensive awards in 2012. He was also named one of 11 National Scholar-Athletes by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1985.

Leaving A Mark
As someone who almost did not attend college, Gilmore now fully believes in the transformative nature of the college experience. “It changed the projectile of my future from that point on,” said Gilmore. “I was exposed to things that I never even knew existed.”

It was his positive experience as a student-athlete at Penn that inspired Gilmore to coach at similar institutions. Since graduating from Penn in 1986, Gilmore has only coached in the Ivy and Patriot Leagues for 31 years. “I realized the difference a place like Penn or Holy Cross can have on a young person's life,” said Gilmore. “I personally experienced the opportunities an education like that can provide and I've coached only at schools that can provide that type of opportunity for student-athletes. It is something I believe in very strongly.”

The high-level coaches Gilmore had throughout his four years at Penn helped prepare him to pursue his dream of providing life-changing experiences for future student-athletes. “The preparation I received as a player helped me transition into coaching right away,” explained Gilmore, who began coaching at Penn when he was only 21 years old before receiving his first full-time position at Columbia less than a year later. “I was able to learn from my coaches and apply what they taught me to be successful almost immediately as a first-year coach.”

From Penn To Holy Cross
The experiences that Gilmore had as an undergraduate at Penn have particularly helped him relate to his student-athletes at Holy Cross. “I believe that I understand what the student-athletes at Holy Cross are going through, which allows me to know when it is necessary to be sympathetic and when I need to push them harder.”

As a math and computer science major, Gilmore understands the importance of balancing academics with athletics. “Balancing homework with football put me in a position to realize that it all can be done and done well with the right work ethic and motivation.”

From personal experience, Gilmore also knows that the life skills learned as a football player can only enhance performance in the classroom. “Student-athletes have to work hard as a student here and then also balance football, which is time demanding and physically tiring,” said Gilmore. “Successfully balancing both can teach student-athletes not only how to bounce back from losses, but wins as well. A lot of the skills we teach on the football field are very applicable to their long-term futures.”

Ultimately, as both a player and coach, Gilmore is certainly deserving of his Hall of Fame honors. Just like the coaches at Penn who he played for and learned from, Gilmore will certainly continue to be a role model for past, present and future Holy Cross football players.


The Crusaders will look to contend for the Patriot League championship in 2017 with the return of 12 starters. Holy Cross is set to play five games at Fitton Field this fall, beginning with the home opener against New Hampshire on Sept. 16. Other key home dates will come against Lafayette (Sept. 30), Monmouth (Oct. 7), Colgate (Oct. 21) and Georgetown (Oct. 28).

To make sure you are there for every minute of the action this fall, purchase your 2017 season tickets today! For details, click here or call 1-844-GOCROSS.


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