Tom Southall competes in the hurdles during a track meet in 1980. Southall was part of three state track championships and one football state championship during his time in Steamboat Springs.

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Tom Southall competes in the hurdles during a track meet in 1980. Southall was part of three state track championships and one football state championship during his time in Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat athlete Southall to enter Colorado College Hall of Fame

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Tom Southall lands in the pit at a track meet in 1981. Southall, already a member of the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame, will be inducted into the Colorado College Athletic Hall of Fame in May.

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For reservations or information about the May 9 banquet at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, contact Jessica Bennett at jessica.bennett@c... or 719-389-6336. Registration and a reception are at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m.

Tom Southall can remember a game from his junior year of high school when Steamboat Springs played Holy Family in football.

As Southall recalls, the members of the Holy Family football team didn't want to tackle him because they were afraid to hurt him. Southall - who was born without part of his right arm and no hand - quickly changed the players' minds.

Several long runs and a couple of touchdowns later, the problem wasn't that Holy Family players didn't want to tackle Southall. The problem was they couldn't.

"This was our first time out of our little small corner of Colorado," Southall said. "At first, they were afraid to tackle me. Then word got out pretty quick that you better take care of business when you're playing Steamboat."

Already recognized in the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame for his athletic achievements, Southall will be inducted into the Colorado College Athletic Hall of Fame on May 9, at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs.

Southall - who graduated from Steamboat in 1981 and Colorado College in 1985 - played football and ran track for the Tigers in college.

His 82-yard punt return against Trinity University in 1982 still is a school record. He also holds the Colorado College record in the long jump, at 24 feet, and shares the 400-meter relay mark of 41.7 seconds.

"At the college level, it was a lot more cutthroat," Southall said. "The competition wasn't going to give you any leeway, and they weren't going to cut you any slack. But I didn't expect any favors and definitely didn't give any favors in return. It was just the field of competition."

A lifelong champion

Southall's athletic abilities were always evident. He was part of three state track championships in high school and won a football state championship in 1979. Former basketball and track coach Kelly Meek said Southall - who he once timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds - was one of the best athletes he's ever been around.

"It was his ability to see things," said Meek, noting that even at 5-foot-8-inch, Southall could dunk a basketball. "His peripheral vision and lateral vision was unbelievable. That's what made him such a great returner in football. Every time he was back there, the stadium would come to their feet. I mean, you could feel the hair standing on the back of your neck."

Southall now teaches and coaches track at Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora. He's also heavily involved with coaching and officiating the Paralympics. He accompanied the Paralympics team to Beijing last summer and works with the team frequently.

"It's probably the most humbling experience I've ever had," he said. "Kids 7 or 8 years old with two prosthetic legs, running down the track and smiling. It's really amazing."

Meek said Southall's character shines as much as his natural talent.

"He was more than an athlete - he's just a phenomenal human being. He does so much for so many people," Meek said. "He never hung his head. He was an inspiration for many. I learned more from him than he ever learned from me."

The induction into the Colorado College Athletic Hall of Fame is a tribute to a lot of people, Southall said. He started playing sports at a young age and came from an athletic family. He said despite not having the use of two arms, his parents were instrumental in allowing him to compete. He also said none of it would have been possible without the help of several coaches, including Meek and former football coach Mark Drake.

"Just because you might be challenged physically, that doesn't mean you can't overcome the obstacles, make contributions to your team and be successful for yourself," Southall said. "I grew up competing and wasn't treated differently. My parents didn't let me sit on the sidelines. They put me out there and helped me figure out how to get things done. But not only was it the upbringing through my parents instilling a good work ethic on myself and our family, but it was the whole community of Steamboat."

For reservations or information about the May 9 banquet, contact Jessica Bennett at jessica.bennett@coloradocollege.edu or 719-389-6336. Registration and a reception are at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m.

Last year, local attorney Kris Hammond was inducted into the Colorado College Athletic Hall of Fame for his accomplishments on the diving board.

Comments

nostalgiagirl 5 years ago

Tom Southall is a class act, then and now. He will someday follow in the footsteps of the coaches, Meek and Drake, that he so reveres and will be part of the Colorado Coaches Hall of Fame as well. He is a giving person and he gives, gives, gives. Kelly Meek hit the nail on the head when he said, "he's just a phenomenal human being". Congratulations, Tom.

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grizzmas 5 years ago

who can forget all that Tommy meant to us in Steamboat. I remember directing the Sailor band as he scored 6 touchdowns and gained I believe 412 yards from scrimmage in the semi-final state football game.

All over the field there were bodies of opposing players who had tackled air.

But I remember most the person I had the pleasure of knowing. I held a special feeling, since Tommy also played trumpet. How he did it with the "wrong" hand is beyond me. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame was as his "substitute" in the pit band for the high school musical while he needed to be on the sports field.

But my greatest memory is the year after the championship, when the Sailors were again playing for it all. I recorded the entire game at my real estate office, complete with my gasping rendition of "anchors aweigh". We did not win that day but when the team came home, Tommy proved a winner in his comments to me and his attitude in defeat.

So, thanks for the memories, Tommy, it has been an honor knowing you and sharing your story with everyone.

And hello to all those Steamboat Sailors !

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