Tom was diagnosed at 17 years old with a rare disease called sclerosing cholangitis at the same time he was chasing his dream to play major college football. He has the same deadly liver disease that took the life of NFL Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton at the age of 45. His prognosis is better though because he was diagnosed at a much younger age than the average patient with this disease, but eventually at some point in his life, he will require a kidney transplant.
Continuing to play football at the next level despite his diagnosis was very important to Tom, who had two brothers play at Northwestern. Tom had only one offer coming out of high school so he chose instead to walk on at Penn State and continue the family tradition of playing in the Big Ten.
Tom played mostly on special teams during his career, but just being able to play was all he ever wanted. He came to the conclusion his diagnosis with a rare disease was all about using his platform to raise awareness for his rare disease and help other people.