Gridiron doctor

April 01, 2007 11:00 pm
Siskiyou Savages tight end Tom Polidore chats with his youngest son Luke during a break in practice last Saturday. Polidore said his family and friends plan to cheer him on tonight during the season opener. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).
Siskiyou Savages tight end Tom Polidore chats with his youngest son Luke during a break in practice last Saturday. Polidore said his family and friends plan to cheer him on tonight during the season opener. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).

By Bill Choy

Triplicate Sports Editor

Dick Trone had his doubts when Tom Polidore stepped onto the field to try out for the Siskiyou Savages semi-pro football team.

How in the world could this 47-year-old man have what it takes to compete against guys several years younger – many that were young enough be his children, wondered Trone, the head football coach.

Polidore is a general surgeon with a practice in Crescent City. In fact, Trone said, Dr. Polidore had just performed surgery on his wife only a few weeks before.

One of the first thoughts that went through his mind was "If he gets hurt they're going to hang me," Trone recalled with a laugh. "He's one of the most respected citizens in town."

Soon enough, Polidore showed he had what it takes to play football, displaying great athletic ability, toughness and was in top-notch physical shape. He impressed the surprised coaching staff and made the team.

He's done so well, in fact, Trone expects him to be an important component of the team and says he will play a great deal when the Savages open the season on Saturday at home against Klamath Falls.

The starting tight end is expected to leave the team after the fifth game of the season and currently, Trone expects Polidore to take over.

"He been a real valuable addition to our football team," Trone said. "He's not just someone who will just fill out a uniform and sit on the bench. He's going to help us He's been a pleasant surprise. He's a good athletic and a good team player. He's a joy to have on the team."

After a day of meeting with patients, earlier this week, Polidore sat down in his office to discuss why he's decided to put the pads on again.

For him, playing football is a chance to have fun and see if he can do it.

"I'm really excited," he said. "I'm like a little kid. It makes me feel younger. It's added a little spring to my step, although some days there's a little bit of a limp in my step," he said with a chuckle.

After years of raising a family and being a doctor, he said he felt it was time to do something for himself.

Growing up in the small town of Garwood, N.J., located near New York City, Polidore was active in football in high school as a tight end.

His first year of college at Rutgers University in New Jersey, he walked onto the football team.

After his first year, he realized balancing school and football was too difficult. By that time, he had decided going to medical school and being a doctor "was more important."

Watching the Savages play the past few years, Polidore said it crossed his mind last year that perhaps he still had what it took to play football.

He had already been working with personal trainer Mike Zeck and one day told him he wanted to train to play football and try out for the Savages.

Now, Zeck knows a thing or two about the sport.

In fact, he's the starting running back on the Savages and played college ball at the University of San Diego and The University of Oregon.

Polidore decided to start training for football, lifting weights, doing a cardiovascular workout and getting on a football training program that's just like college football players do to get in shape.

"It's like he has a different body," Zeck said. "A lot of 47- year olds don't up and decide to play full contact football."

For many years, Polidore has been active in sports, from golf to tennis and said getting in football shape was just another fun, healthy challenge in his life.

By the time tryouts occurred, he was ready to show he still had what it took to play football.

While he knew he may not be as young, fast or as big as some of the other guys, Polidore said he believed his athletic ability, conditioning and smarts would serve him well.

When tryouts came around, Polidore wondered if he could make it with the Savages.

"I had no idea at what level I could compete at," he said.

By the time practices started, Polidore said he started to get more comfortable and saw he belonged on the field with his fellow weekend gridiron warriors.

He knew for certain he belonged a few weeks back when the Savages participated in a scrimmage match against Coos Bay, one of the better football teams in the region.

Polidore was able to contribute on many plays, making key blocks. He even had a pass thrown his way for a 10-yard gain. On another play, he made a key block and the running back scampered his way for a 20-yard gain.

"I held my own out there," he said. "It was good for me to see."

Polidore said he believes his play on the field has helped show his fellow players what he's capable of.

"I think I've earned their respect," he said.

The team has also come up with an appropriate nickname for Polidore "Doc."

At first, Zeck said, some of the players wondered why someone Polidore's age would try football. But by the time practices got in full swing, he said his teammates had a profound respect for Polidore as a person and football player.

"Age hasn't been a limitation for him," Zeck said. "It's just a number. He's not just that old guy playing. I'm really proud of what he's accomplished."

Overall, reaction to his football playing has been positive, Polidore said.

He said he has the full support and blessing of his wife,

Chris, and his three children, 19-year old Todd, who is a student at the University of California at Davis, Blake, a high school junior, and Luke, who is in middle school.

"I think it's great," said Chris, who has been married to Tom Polidore for nearly 25 years. "I think everyone should pursue their dreams."

For Chris, it's wonderful to see her husband doing something he loves and having fun and said her husband is looking like and sounding like a kid again.

She said both her and the couples three sons plans to be at the game tonight, cheering him on.

While there's been a lot of positive comments, a few of his friends and co-workers have expressed concerns about him getting hurt, wondering why he would be playing football at his age and "think I'm crazy" Polidore said. He said he knows there's a chance he could get hurt, but said "God willing," he won't get injured.

Already, word has spread around town that Dr. Polidore is playing football for the Savages.

He said his patients, co-workers and fellow doctors have asked him about it. Polidore has been stopped by acquaintances at stores asking if he's playing for the Savages and getting comments like, "It's a great thing your doing."

While working out, some of the football players from the high school have talked to Polidore and told him they think it's awesome what he is doing.

Many of his son Blake's friends have also commented and one even told him when he was Polidore's age he wanted to play football like him.

"It's not something every 47-year old guy would do," he said.

Many people he knows said they will be in the stands to watch him play in his first game tonight.

"There should be a pretty good crowd," Polidore said, adding he hopes people will come out and see the "good quality football" that is being played in semi-pro ball.

Polidore admits while excited, he is "getting butterflies," as game time approaches.

After all, he hasn't played in an actual football game in about 30 years.

If there's a lesson from all of this, Polidore hopes people can take it's that regardless of age or physical shape, if one has the desire and drive they can fulfill a goal.

"Maybe people can realize they can get off the sofa and try something they thought they were too old or not physically fit enough to do," he said. "They can go out and make an attempt, and they will feel better and be healthier people."