Becoming National Sports Celebrity
Originally published December 26, 2005
Father Tommy Conway, the priest at St.
Thomas Catholic Church, has been a local sports celebrity for several
years, as he is the team chaplain for the University of Southern
Mississippi football team and he goes to as many games of all kinds that
Now, Conway has turned into
something of a national sports celebrity. Last month, ABC cameras showed
him standing next to Deanna Favre, wife of Green Bay Packers quarterback
Brett, at a Monday Night Football game.
Last week, Conway and his "stick" that he
holds on the sideline of Southern Miss football games were the feature of
an ESPN.com story by Pat Forde.
Conway talks about his recent celebrity
status and sports in general in a question-and-answer format.
How did the trip to Green Bay come about?
When Brett and Deanna are in Hattiesburg, they go to either Sacred Heart
or St. Thomas. Last year, when Brett was going for his 200th straight
start, I called Deanna. She said, "I promise you next year if they play a
Monday Night Football game, you can go with me to Green Bay." She didn't
forget her promise.
It was awesome. A jet picked us up in
Hattiesburg. We flew up there 2 1/2 hours, spent two nights, went to
Brett's steakhouse the night before the game, and had a great time.
The highlight, before the game, Brett had
two security guys took me to the middle of Lambeau Field for a photo with
him. I was the envy of a lot of people in the stands.
I haven't got the photo yet, but I'll get
him to sign it, and I'll frame it, and put in my house or office.
did the fans treat Favre?
is like a god in Green Bay. Every place I went I was wearing Southern Miss
stuff. They would stop me, and say, "Oh you're from Brett's school." The
night of the game, the cheer he got compared to other players was unreal.
They love him.
did you think when ESPN.com came to you?
Forde called me to chat. I had no idea he was going to write an article
about me. He said he had seen me at several games with the stick. I
haven't read the whole thing yet.
sports did you play in your younger days?
Growing up in Ireland, my college was very small. We played Irish
football, a little bit of soccer.
I did little bit of road running, cross
country. I ran the Dublin City marathon in November, 1985.
you participate in any sports now?
play a little racquetball now. (USM basketball) Coach (Larry) Eustachy
says we need to play. I tell people I'm not old enough for golf.
You're seen at practically every home Southern Miss football, basketball
and baseball game. Do you have a favorite sport?
Softball, soccer, I like all of them. I know some people on every team. I
love all sports. I know the coaches and some players. I love the ministry
of being a chaplain of the football team.
time of year there is something more important than sports. In this
Christmas season, what are your thoughts?
talk about Mary and Joseph waiting. It's very much like waiting for FEMA
trailers. Those thoughts run through my mind. Hattiesburg is getting in
better shape but we have to keep our eyes focused on the coast and New
Orleans. That's very much on our minds.
We still have families in Iraq and Kuwait.
I do a service at 2 at Camp Shelby every Sunday. We can't forget about
lead a very active life, don't you?
my head hits the pillow, I sleep well.
Pat Forde of ESPN.com wrote about Father
Tommy Conway's "stick," which began when USM hosted No. 10 TCU in 2003.
Here is an excerpt from the story:
Seizing upon an amphibian motif, Conway read the team the scripture in
Exodus that described the plague of frogs God sent down upon Egypt to
convince the Pharaoh to let Moses and Jews go free.
"In the end the frogs all died, and they put them in a big pile and they
began to stink," Conway said. "I told the team, 'We're not going to let
these stinking frogs come in here and beat us. Now, I'm not Moses and I'm
not Jesus, but I do have my own staff. Every time you take the field, I
want you to look at the staff and believe in yourselves."
Sure enough, Southern Miss shocked the stinkin' Horned Frogs, 40-28. And a
tradition (superstition?) was born.