Tom Hruby wakes up at 4AM. He drives from Indiana to Illinois, arriving at Northwestern by 6am. He stops at the training room, takes the field for practice, watches film, and then has class till 6PM. After school Hruby, a husband and father of four young children, drives back to Indiana to spend quality time with his family. And the next morning, he does it all again.
Among the pressures and turmoil of a difficult childhood, Hruby turned to football and wrestling as a release. In high school, he was a fullback with marked skill. It was in those tumultuous years of young adulthood that Hruby decided to enlist.
At twenty-three, Hruby joined the Navy SEALS. As the Lead Breacher on initial-entry teams, he encountering more danger and violence than most people can imagine.
Throughout his deployments, Hruby thought about football: “Football really got me through a lot of hard times. Football season came around and I’d watch all the games, and I’d think, you know, I think I got a shot at that.” (BTN's The Journey: Football 2015)
At age 31 Tom returned home. While still working at the Naval Station Great Lakes, he enrolled in Northwestern University and walked onto the Wildcats’ football team. Two years later, after his honorable discharge, Tom was cleared to play. That same afternoon Hruby, carrying the American flag, led the Wildcats onto the field for their game against Michigan. Hruby never sought the spotlight, and of his journey to college football, he is attributed the following statement in Zach Pereles' Inside NU piece:
“I’ve always felt like a big part of what I’m doing, and a reason I’m doing it, is somehow it’ll maybe inspire veterans [or] inspire active duty guys that are overseas. I hope that it inspires some veterans maybe that are home . . . having a tough time dealing with some different mental or emotional issues. Hopefully, in some way, this will give them just a little bit extra to go and look for something; there are a lot of options out there, and you just have to go and fight for them.”