Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TAKE TEN: Author Tom McManus

Tom McManus may not be what you consider the 'typical author,' however, nothing about his life or experiences can be called typical. After finding success in the NFL he has gone on to host his own sports talk radio show and now pen a book about his special relationship with his father called "We'll Always Be Pals". What does he have to say about what led to the writing of the book and what all of us can glean from it when it comes to our own relationships with family and friends? McManus discusses all of this and more.

Tom, thank you for taking out time to talk with us. Before I get into your book "We'll Always Be Pals" I want to talk about the writing experience overall. When you look at your journey overall, does it surprise you that you are now finding success as an author?
I don’t think the word surprise is the term I would use. Surreal is more like it although from the start I always felt this was a compelling story that had to be told and that I had to be the one to tell it, my way. Now that it has been out a few months and the response has been somewhat overwhelming, it’s a surreal feeling knowing that what I wrote is moving and inspiring people. It’s a tremendous feeling for that is one of the reasons I wrote “We’ll Always Be Pals”.

This is quite a career change from football, however, it seems you are able to resonate with sports lovers through your book. Do you think your past career will bring a different audience to read?
Yes, I do, for my story of making it is a lot closer to what people in the real world go through. Everyone thinks that the NFL is just full of stars, but in reality the “stars” of the league make up a small percentage of the players. Not everyone is a first round draft pick that gets paid millions of dollars. I believe my story will resonate because although I had enough talent to be in the league, it was a struggle for me to realize my dream. It also tells the story of getting lucky, but also being prepared when an opportunity arises and making the most out of it.

Let's take a step back to what led to the book being written. I know through a video on your site you talk about when you started writing it. Why don't you share that with our readers.
I wrote the initial story for my first daughter who was yet to be born. I was out of football and was coming to grips with knowing my career was over, that my dream had died. I had just finished reading Tom Brokaw’s, The Greatest Generation, which tells the story of someone born in 1920 and all that they went through. Well, my father was born in 1920 and the life he lived was truly incredible. I felt like I had to write about his story for he was the only grandparent that wasn’t around for the birth of my first child, my Avery Ann, and he was so important to me and what I am all about that I had to let her know all about him. Now it has grown into so much more, for we have three daughters, Kelsey Marie and Harley Mae, and we talk about their Grandpa Geno and all he did and all that he meant to their own father, all the time.

The book is not just about you but your father as well. There is one passage that comes to mind that I think all of us can relate to. It's on page 40 and says this: "He was being pulled in two different directions, but he knew where he wanted to go, where he must go. He had put his dreams on hold for far too long." When you think about the journey of your father's life, did it make the decisions you would make in your own life easier?
The upbringing that he and my mother instilled in me did all of that and of course a good part of that derived from his own life story. I was always taught to believe in myself, to stand up for what I believed in, to overcome adversity and deal with it head on. My Dad made me tough and not only in the physical department (I was the youngest so I had to be tough, my two older brothers kicked the crap out of me), but also in the emotional and mental departments too. It was a great upbringing in that regard for life is tough no matter which way our path takes us.

When writing about your own passion you say this: "The fire in my belly came from having been told I wasn't good enough. It was something that I always had to overcome, from high school all the way up until this seminal moment. It was like 'I will prove them all wrong' was inscribed on my forehead, or at least that was my attitude...No one could measure my heart, only I could, and I was ready to take everything on and prove everyone wrong." That is one of the most poignant of the whole book. In the wake of now being a father yourself, talk to us about why it is important not to let anyone sway you from your dreams.
Because if you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect others to believe in you, no matter what you are in to. I kept that fire alive for it drove me to where I wanted to go. There will always be the “naysayers’ out there no matter what you do, but if the belief that you can do it is inside, those people cannot hurt you. They just stoke the flame even brighter. I teach my girls all the time, give it your best no matter what, and always remember that daddy loves you, but I won’t settle for them not giving it their all no matter what they are doing. They don’t have to be the best, but they do have to try their best, in the classroom, in dance class, or out on their respective fields of play.

Through your book you were able to tell not just your history but that of a generation that is often not appreciated today. Can you tell us what you hope others get from relationship with your father and how that translates to your relationship with your children?
Love. It’s all about the foundation of love. My Dad was very affectionate with me. I hugged and kissed him until the day he died. But, there was also “tough love”. He praised me when I did well and he got all over my butt if I didn’t, especially if my effort was half-assed. The way I discipline my children, along with my wife, is derived from love. I firmly believe that as a parent it is my responsibility to make sure that they are going to make it in this world when my time is up. These early years really build the foundation of life. I want my kids to be confident, well mannered and respectful people. It is my duty as their father to make sure that I do all that I can to help them become those kinds of people. But, with that being said, they melt my heart all the time and I know my Dad is laughing half the time at me with all the “drama” that goes on in our house.

The title of the book are the last words your father said to you, but being called a 'Pal' by him was something new. What was the significance of that for you?
It meant everything. Pal to me means, a friend for life, no matter what. It’s the highest label of friendship in my opinion. Through thick and thin. Always. Forever. When he called me his pal three days before he died, it was incredible for me to hear that from my Dad. He was right, we were Pals, and always will be, to the end.

Tom, you have experienced success at so many different time during your life. What would be success in your opinion when it comes to the book?
To inspire as many people as it’s humanly possible. I truly mean that. I want people to put my book down after they finish reading it and say, wow, that was a great story. Maybe it will help them dig a little deeper, to love a little bit more, to achieve, to believe, to overcome and above all to live life to the fullest. Being a best selling author would be pretty cool too.

For those who have experienced a loss like yours, what would you say to them about sharing their own experiences?
It’s definitely therapeutic. I could feel my Dad’s presence throughout the whole experience. I loved going back and remembering our times together and writing about his life story. Here I am, this 250 pound former middle linebacker writing like crazy (and using the peck method of my two pointer fingers the entire time), laughing and crying the whole time. My pregnant wife would be down stairs asking me what in the heck is going on up there. It was a very emotional time for me and I loved every minute of it. I would encourage anyone to write their feelings down for those who you want to know and see how you feel.

Thank you for giving us a great book. If our readers want to find out more about you, where can they find you online?
www.alwaysbepals.com is my book’s website. It has a video on there for all to see as to why I wrote the story. I also host my own sports/life talk radio show called “The Rumble with Tom McManus” in Jacksonville, Florida on 1010 XL (or AM 1010). I air 10-1 PM, EST., and I can be heard live online at www.1010xl.com. Thank you so much for this opportunity. Take care and God Bless.

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