Vanderbilt’s Kicker Tommy Openshaw Is A Man On A Mission
If you look at Tommy Openshaw‘s Instagram account, his bio says ‘Seeking Jesus and Adventure’. You will also see in his pictures that he has taken advantage of everything Vanderbilt has to offer and then some. From academics to global adventures and everything in between, he is a Vanderbilt Man through and through.
Success In Classroom
Openshaw successfully completed undergraduate degrees in Engineering Science and Economics in May. He is currently working on a Masters in Leadership and Organizational Performance at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. He was also named SEC First-Year Honor Roll in 2013-2014. Furthermore, Openshaw has achieved SEC Academic Honor Roll every year since, as well as making the Dean’s list six times. Just added to the list of his academic achievements Tommy was announced as a semi-finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is awarded to the absolute best football scholar-athlete.
When Openshaw finishes graduate school in May 2019, he has limitless opportunities. One option he is considering is military service. In fact, when it came to choosing a college, it was between Naval Academy and Vanderbilt. Openshaw comes from a Navy family; his mom, dad, uncle, and grandfather all went to the Naval Academy. His mom was in the Navy for 24 years, most of which she served in the reserves. So, he did not have to move around as much as most military children.
Drive To Serve
Openshaw’s call to serve extends beyond his military aspirations. He joined Bucks (Beta Upsilon Chi), an off campus Christian Fraternity, and has been a member for four years. “Twice a semester, we have service requirements anything from serving at a homeless shelter or cleaning up a church to working at Project Cure,” Tommy explained. Along with Bucks, he is involved with FCA, as well as “Varsity Catholic” which is similar to FCA. It is for Catholic athletes there. Approximately 15 athletes get together every week to do bible studies.
With these service organizations, Openshaw has been able to do numerous mission trips. In May, he went with the FCA and 13 fellow Vandy athletes to Costa Rica. He has also had the opportunity to spend spring break of his junior and senior years in the Dominican Republic through a friend’s ministry called Kids Alive. “We were involved in getting education to kids, doctors come in to do check ups. We got to work in the orphanage, work in the schools; we set up a medical filing system for all the kids. Those trips have been the best part of my college experience. It has shaped who I am and my perspective on life,” Openshaw said with pride.
When this interview took place, Tommy was a nominee for the Allstate-AFCA National Good Works Team. He has since been named to the team due to his numerous commitments mentioned above. Openshaw is the fourth Vanderbilt student-athlete to be named to the team. He is also a 2017 Wuerffel Trophy candidate, which is awarded annually to the college football player that provides exemplary community service as well as athletic and academic achievement.
On The Grass
Openshaw is also making an impact on the football field. He is on the 2017 Lou Groza Award (PK) watch list. The Groza award is given annually to the nation’s top place kicker. In 2016, he kicked 15 of 19 field goal attempts, with his career long of 52 yards at Auburn last November. Openshaw has scored a total of 188 points in his Vanderbilt career, which places him fifth all-time among Commodore kickers.
When asked about the various awards, he is beyond humble, “The accolades don’t mean a whole lot. I just want to win football games and want our team to do well. If I am worried about my own personal success, we will never be successful this is a team sport.”
Openshaw was sure to acknowledge his teammates, “I do what I can to put my team in a place to win. I can’t make a field goal on my own, I need a great snap and a great hold. Then the guys blocking have to do a phenomenal job, because you have 300-pound guys on the other team that want nothing more than you to miss your kick. The guys up front are taking it to the face every single kick; they absorb the blow so it’s not fun. More props to them because they do not get any props.”
As his college career is drawing to a close, Openshaw reflected on his time in the SEC. “It’s been a very surreal path. You get numb to the fact that you are playing in the SEC and playing big teams every week that you grew up watching. At one point this summer, I was on the practice field kicking by myself, and I just sat there and looked around and thought ‘dang this is my fifth year here.’ I had forgotten that I am playing in the greatest football conference in the country. You just take it for granted. It has been really cool soaking and trying to appreciate the last year.”
When Did You Fall In Love With Football
“I started playing soccer when I was five years old. One of my teammates also played football and his dad was the peewee coach. He noticed I was an extremely aggressive soccer player and recruited me to play football when I was eight years old. I played both for most of my young life. I really enjoyed football; I have played running back, center, defensive end, and tight end. I was all over the place. I was the skinny kid but I was pretty fast.
It was late middle school that I started developing as a kicker. I made a 40-yard field goal in 7th grade. No one had done that, so I thought maybe this is something I could work on and get better at. The summer going to 9th grade, I started working with a kicking coach. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was trying to kick it straight and far. Once I got to high school, I started playing just kicker and punter. I wasn’t built to play anything but kicker. Yet, I never saw myself as ‘just a kicker’ since I grew up playing other positions. I always tried to get in on tackling drills as much as I could. So, I caused a couple fumbles on kickoff. I was a 160-pound twig running down the field and I knew how to form tackle. I just love football.”
The Big Brother
Tommy is the big brother to three younger sisters. He always wanted a brother growing up, and now he has 100 brothers on the Vandy football team that fill that role for him.
He bragged about his sisters and their accomplishments. “Colleen is a junior at South Carolina, where she runs track and cross-country. She is also a pre-med student and definitely the smartest one in our family, as well as the hardest worker. Tara is a senior in high school. She runs cross-country and track. She is a true team leader, which has been cool to see. She is also involved in and is leading a youth group retreat that both Colleen and I went on in high school. Claire is the youngest and a sophomore. She is definitely the best athlete out of all of us. She got fourth in the state in the mile and 6th for the 3,200 as a freshman. She has got all the records at our high school for running, hard worker, and has a great head on her shoulders. She is going to do great things with running. They are all awesome.” Openshaw is clearly proud of his sisters and their accomplishments.
With his sisters’ class schedules and athletics commitments, getting the whole family to a game is a feat. It has only happened a handful of times. Although, he usually has at least one parent is at every game.
Hiking is Tommy’s outlet, his way to unplug and recharge. After graduation in May, he spent three days hiking in Yosemite with six of his friends. They conquered Half Dome, which he said “was a brutal 18-mile round trip hike that took over 10 hours, but the views were worth it.”
Fourth of July weekend, he went to Jackson Hole, WY with Caleb Scott, where they went to the Grand Tetons. The last day, they did a hike that he had only seen a picture of on Instagram. It was an emerald high altitude lake at the base of the Grand Tetons. It was not on a marked trail, so after some research he found a blog post that described how to get to it. They took off on their last day to find Delta Lake, they did the eight-mile round trip hike most of which was completely off trail, climbing through foliage and over boulders. He describes his view, “You get over the ridge and come upon this lake, it’s crystal clear with a reflection of the mountain and you look back and can see out the valley. It is absolutely unreal.”
The Next Chapter
Next summer, he will just be a grad student. It will be his first summer with no football or internship commitments. Tommy’s dream is to travel west for five weeks and visit several national parks, for hiking and sightseeing, eventually working his way to Banff, Alberta Canada.
Openshaw summed up his college career, “There was a lot I wish I could have done but wasn’t able to do it all. I have tried to find a balance, being dedicated to football has always been a priority, while also taking advantage of the academic environment at Vanderbilt. The ministries and friends I have made outside of athletics have been very important to me, I always make sure I have time to do that. I have sacrificed a lot. I have friends that I haven’t been as close with and I wish I was. I didn’t have time to go with them on weekend trips because I had football or I couldn’t stay up with them because I had 5:30am wake ups. But I have taken advantage of as much as possible.” Tommy Openshaw, a Vanderbilt Man through and through.