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Tommy Bohanon: Giving back to the community

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Sep 15, 2021

Tommy Bohanon at North Fort Myers High School’s Moody Field. MICHAEL PISTELLA

Tommy Bohanon may have played in the NFL for several seasons, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

Bohanon played Pop Warner football in Cape Coral and high school football at North Fort Myers before going off the play in college at Wake Forest and in the NFL for the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars (with a few short stops to boot).

And as his playing career winds down, Bohanon, 31, has decided to give back to the community and the people who helped make him who he is today by founding his own foundation that gives scholarships to worthy student athletes and runs a one-day football clinic so young kids can train like a pro.

Bohanon was born in Cape Coral Hospital and went to Diplomat elementary and middle schools, while playing Little League and Pop Warner from the age of 4.

Bohanon attended North Fort Myers High School, where he played tight end on some great teams with Noel Divine and another future NFL player, Tre Boston, before graduating early in December 2008 after earning All-District, All-Area and All-Conference honors for three years as a Red Knight.

A plaque honoring Bohanon is on North Fort Myers High School’s field house. MICHAEL PISTELLA

Bohanon moved to fullback upon arriving at Wake Forest and became a starter as a true freshman, playing all four years there. His talents were such that the New York Jets drafted him in the seventh round of the 2013 draft.

Bohanon would become a reliable receiver out of the backfield, blocker and short-yardage runner in his three seasons in New York before being released before the 2016 season.

Bohanon missed an entire season of football, where he worked for his father while continuing to work out in hopes of another chance in the NFL.

“I was back here training and pouring concrete and all that fun stuff,” Bohanon said. “I went to the NFL veteran combine and got one of the times I had in the rookie combine four years earlier.”

In April 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Bohanon to a two-year contract and he helped them to reach the AFC Championship Game. He played one more season with the Jaguars before his contract ran out and the team decided not to re-sign him.

While in Jacksonville Bohanon experienced one of his career high points by scoring the game-winning touchdown in the AFC divisional playoffs against Pittsburgh.

“We were underdogs in that game even though we were in Pittsburgh four weeks before and beat them handily,” Bohanon said. “To catch that touchdown pass to go up for good was very special.”

Bohanon went to the Green Bay Packers in 2019, but was waived by the Packers before the start of the season and was later drafted by the New York Guardians of the XFL, deciding not to join.

Bohanon was signed by the Baltimore Ravens following their getting hit hard with COVID for a short time in 2020, joining their practice squad before he was waived.

Being a fullback can be difficult, Bohanon said, because not all teams use fullbacks. Since Jacksonville had changed its offensive scheme, there was no need for a fullback.

“It’s a very cyclical position. Some years there will be 20 to 25 teams with them and some where there are 10 to 15,” Bohanon said. “Not every team has one, but there’s been a resurgence the last few years with teams that have success on the ground.”

Even before winding down his career, Bohanon had already planned for the next chapter of his life. While with the Jaguars in 2017, he started the Tommy Bohanon Foundation, which helps youth find success in sports and in life.

Bohanon serves as the president while his wife, Katie, is the executive director. Johnny Garcia, a teammate of Bohanon’s at Wake Forest, is chairman of the board.

“I really love to help people, and once I got done with football and was able to help people on a much greater scale,” Bohanon said. “Me and my wife had always talked about doing something for the community.”

Bohanon started out with a modest goal of putting on a one-day football camp. But as they looked at the area, they saw how underserved the kids were.

“We had this high calling and the platform where we were able to give back in any way possible,” Bohanon said. “The foundation started out of a pure wanting to help anybody who can benefit from our foundation.”

Out of the football camp came other things such as a grant program for youth sports organizations in need of equipment and a scholarship fund for high school seniors who have excelled on the field and in the classroom.

Another program is the “Man UP” Seminar, where Lee County student athletes learn life skills from mentors in everything from financial literacy to how to tie a tie.

Bohanon said that is his favorite event because he realizes life isn’t all about sports and that for many, their athletic careers will be over after high school. They need a plan.

“We talk to athletic directors in the area and bring in multiple boys from each school and teach them how to be a productive member of society,” Bohanon said. “The chances of these kids going pro in any sport is so small that you need to have a backup plan. I don’t want to dampen their dreams. I just want them to be realistic.”

To do everything the foundation wants to do, it takes money. Every year, they hold a Playmakers Tailgate Party, which this year was held at the Cape Coral Yacht Club and typically funds all their programs for the year.

Bohanon also helps people with their financial futures. He is a financial advisor at Alliance Financial Group, which helped Bohanon get his foundation off the ground when it got started.

“It was by chance we had a conversation about what I was going to do after football. I had a few meetings with them and with some other companies and ultimately decided to work here because of that true nature of wanting to help people,” Bohanon said.

Bohanon has not completely ruled out a comeback to football. He continues to train so he is prepared in the event another team calls him with an offer to play or an opportunity he can’t refuse.

But even if he is called, the new COVID protocols make it very difficult to just hop on a plane and go. It takes a few days and even then there’s no guarantee they will sign you.

“It’s not something I’m ever going to shut the door on. I’m always in shape and always working out so that won’t be an issue,” Bohanon said. “It’s just hard to jump into any spot with all the regulations they’ve instituted even since I was in the league.”

There also is a question of time and obligations — Bohanon and his wife have a 1-year-old daughter in addition to his commitments with work and their work with the foundation.

But if that call never comes, Bohanon knows how blessed he is to be able to serve the community the way he and his foundation do, especially for kids. NFMNL