Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

July 21, 2012

They don’t make them like this anymore

The University of Maryland lost one of her finest sons on Wednesday when Tom McLuckie passed away at the age of 79.

Born in Cumberland, Tom’s family moved to Michigan where he would become a three-time All-State football player and shot putter at Midland High School. He returned home to Maryland, though, where, as an offensive guard, he was a three-time letterman and started for the Terps’ 1953 national championship team. They said he played the game the way it was supposed to be played. He was no-nonsense and, most of all, he was tough. Don Decker, one of Cumberland’s many Maryland football players from the time, once said, “When Tom McLuckie hit you, you stayed hit.”

Tom played his final college football game on Christmas Day 1954 in the Blue-Gray Classic in Montgomery, Ala. One year back in the 1980s when a representative of the Kelly Springfield, the sponsor of the game at the time, invited Suter Kegg and me to fly to Montgomery to attend the game, I asked Tom if we made a mistake in not taking up the offer.

“No,” he said flatly.

“Why not?” I asked.

“The only people who should have to spend Christmas in Montgomery, Alabama are people who want to,” he said. “And even they’re not happy about it.”

Tom graduated from Maryland in 1955 after being drafted in the 13th round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Cardinals. Instead, he served and played football in the United States Army at Fort Jackson where his team won the Army Championship two years in a row.

Tom McLuckie was a man’s man, there is no other way to put it. Big, rugged, strong and handsome, I always thought he looked like Mickey Mantle. Tom worked hard and he thought everybody else should, too. He was a man of few words — a man of deeds, not words, if you will. But when those words came out, brother, they had power. As Barry Lattimer, no stranger to work ethic, told Tom’s grandson Jason Rakaczewski, “I worked for your grandfather one summer at George Construction. You know, he wasn’t always the nicest man in the world. But he got things done. Tom always got the job done.”

Maybe he wasn’t such a pussycat on the job, but Tom McLuckie was a good man always. He was happiest outdoors, particularly when he was hunting, and he loved to work with his hands, whether it was construction or gardening. And he had no equal in either.

His work ethic was such that he once left a good job because he couldn’t stand to be around so many people who wouldn’t work. Said Bill Brown, a longtime friend and co-worker of Tom’s at George, “Somebody said to me, ‘Can you believe Tom left that job?’ and I said. ‘It doesn’t surprise me in the least. I know some of those people, and the thing they work hardest at is getting out of work.’ Tom would have none of it. He just couldn’t stand that.”

When I first grew to know him Tom was one of the best pitchers in the Rocking Chair Fastpitch Softball League, and, for some reason, they called him Frosty.

“I don’t know who gave him that name or why,” said Tom’s oldest daughter Allison, who, along with her sister Sharon were known as Little Frosties, “but I have a feeling it had something to do with beer.”

He was a fun-loving man, and he loved the Terps until his final day. When Maryland played the right way and won, life was good. When Maryland didn’t play the right way, and lost? Well, not so much.

Tom cherished his association with Maryland and with Maryland football, never missing a reunion of his old teams, and holding season tickets seemingly forever.

When I visited the McLuckie home as a child, I always asked to play with Tom’s Maryland football helmet, which was leather and which he kept in pristine condition on the highest closet shelf in the house. I think his wife Betty Jean allowed me to play with it twice, but never again after I had scuffed it and it had to be quickly polished and returned before Mr. McLuckie came home from work. I think he would have been less likely to kill me if he caught me playing with one of his guns, although not really. That was just how much pride he took in that helmet, because it was a symbol of such wonderful days and the greatest time in Maryland football history, and he was such an integral part of it.

I will remember Tom as a friend, who, under what he would have you believe was a gruff exterior (okay, it could be a gruff exterior), was a softspoken gentleman who was a pushover for animals, his wife and his girls, and who had enormous pride in his grandson.

In that regard, maybe he was no different than how you would expect any husband, provider, father and grandfather to be. But it is important to remember Tom McLuckie and men like him, because sadly they are becoming few and far between. Whether it was work or in life, he demanded you get the job done. He worked harder than anybody and he expected you to as well. Tom McLuckie expected nothing less from you than having pride in your name.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

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Mike Burke - Sports
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