After leading the Towson Tigers football team to the playoffs, transfer quarterback Tom Flacco is making a name for himself
“He was excited about the fact that I wasn’t promising him anything with coming (to TU),” Ambrose says. “He was going to have to earn it. That’s the kind of mentality that he has. He doesn’t want it to be given, he wants it earned.”
Not only did Flacco earn the starting quarterback position, but he led the Tigers to the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 2013.
His performance also earned him the Colonial Athletic Association’s (CAA) 2018 Offensive Player of the Year, a first for a TU quarterback and only the second time a Tiger has won the award.
Not a bad first season for someone who was on his third school, and had no promise of playing time.
“I can't be any more grateful for the coaches and the opportunity that they've given me,” Flacco says. “But also, just the guys in that locker room are great guys, and the team chemistry we have is great.”
Before coming to TU, Flacco spent two seasons at Western Michigan and a season at Rutgers (where he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 2018). During that time, he only appeared in 13 games and passed for just 188 yards.
“I told someone earlier, how I was getting used to just practicing, which isn’t fun,” Flacco said. “It’s all about going out there and playing games. “
Flacco was looking for a chance to prove himself at Towson and got that chance by starting all 12 games for the Tigers. He threw for 3,251 yards, 28 touchdowns and was named to the 2018 All-CAA First Team.
After standing on the sidelines, he was ready to play in a competitive game again.
“That first game, that first start (against Morgan State) …I haven't had that feeling in a while, Flacco says. “It was awesome just to go out there and play. It's something that I've been dreaming of since I was 19.”
Flacco learned to trust himself again and also earned the trust of his coach. This season the Tigers are without an offensive coordinator, so Ambrose will be more hands-on with the offense. Their strengthening relationship could be key to Towson’s fortunes.
“It’s pretty crazy that a year has flown by that quickly,” Flacco laughs. “He’s given me the freedom to do what I do and I can’t be more grateful. I feel like I'm gaining his trust with every season, every play and every week now that we've been together for over a year. I can say things to him and he won't get mad. He understands where I'm coming from and I understand where he's coming from.”
And for Ambrose, last season he had an offense that returned its entire starting lineup. The only new addition was Flacco.
Ambrose says that adding an “exceptional quarterback who had an exceptional year,” was the spark the offense needed to make that final playoff push.
With a tight knit group already returning, it might seem hard for a new guy to come into the group. But Flacco admits that after dealing with the grind of a long summer camp, the team embraced their new quarterback.
“I think they kind of respected that I was here and I was working with them,” Flacco says. “They welcomed me with open arms.”
And while the team welcomed him with open arms, the entire Towson University community also welcomed him.
Before coming to TU, Flacco already knew about the surrounding community thanks to his brother Joe, who spent 10 seasons as quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens.
But after experiencing the Towson area first hand, he felt like he made the right decision. And after being at “bigger schools,” he was grateful that the team, the community and other athletes accepted him as a Tiger.
“It’s awesome how loyal and tight the community is here at Towson,” Flacco says. “Rutgers and Western Michigan wasn’t as tightly knit as Towson is. The fans are great and they come out and support us. It’s just a true community atmosphere.”
Behind Flacco, the Tigers and their senior quarterback have high expectations for the 2019 season. The team was picked to finish second in the CAA and is ranked in the Top 10 in several polls.
Flacco also earned several individual preseason awards. He was named the CAA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and to the STATS FCS Preseason All-American Second Team. He was also named to the Walter Payton Award preseason watch list, which honors the top offensive player in the country.
And while all the awards are nice, Ambrose says his quarterback isn’t focused on the good he’s already done. He’s focused on how he can get better.
“As well as he’s played, he understands what he didn’t do and what he needs to get better at,” Ambrose says. “And instead of riding high on thinking ‘everybody thinks I’m great,’ he’s like ‘we’ve got to get better.’ And that’s contagious.
“I’ve seen that from him every day he’s been here. Good is not good enough for him.”
The perfect example of that is the Tigers 31-10 loss to Duquesne in the first round of the 2018 FCS playoffs. While Flacco says he and the team were happy to make the playoffs, they expected to make more of an impact in the postseason.
“We definitely have a bad taste in our mouth right now,” Flacco laughs. “It was an exciting first year to build off of for sure. But, you're never going to be satisfied if you're a good team. You continue to have success; you're going to have to have more.”
Flacco and the Tigers return to Unitas Stadium this Saturday, Sept. 7, for the team’s home opener against North Carolina Central. Kickoff is at 6 p.m., with all tickets being free for everyone with a TU OneCard.
Along with Flacco, the Tigers offense return pre-season All-Americans in running back Shane Simpson and wide receiver Shane Leatherbury, and are returning other key members of a team who were in the top 20 in both total offense (465 yards per game) and scoring offense (34.5 points per game).
With Flacco ready to start his second season behind center, he simply has one word for his offense: “Dynamic.”
“Our offense is going to be super exciting,” Flacco says with a smile. “We have a lot of things that we can do that is going to be frustrating for defensive coordinators. We’re going to be fun to watch.”
Attend TU’s home opener on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. against North Carolina Central at Johnny Unitas® Stadium. To buy game tickets, visit www.towsontigers.com.
TU students can attend home games free of charge by presenting their OneCard at the gate.