Clarkstown High school Class of 1966
Tom Lawson competed for Clarkstown High School and the University of Notre Dame in the 1960s, which was arguably the greatest decade for male athletic supremacy in Rockland County sports history. This is evidenced by standout inductees in the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame from the 1960s such as Paul Toscano, JoJo Mackey, Jim Ashcroft, Ron Edwards, Frank Samoylo, Bob Corvino, Gibby Sweet, Bryan Hassett, Tim St. Lawrence and Mickey Wittman, among others. In those days many of the best athletes played and achieved accolades in multiple sports. Tom Lawson played and excelled for Clarkstown in four sports.
A versatile and outstanding athlete during the heyday of Clarkstown athletics, Tom earned sevenv arsity letters in the sports of football, baseball, basketball and track. He is best known for his accomplishments in football. Tom played on the 1963 undefeated 8-0 championship Ram team as a sophomore. He later became captain of the team his senior year – the second of three Lawson brothers to be so honored. Bob Lawson was captain in 1963 and Steve Lawson in 1973. During that 1965 season,
Tom was a unanimous Rockland first-team All-County selection and a New York Daily News All-Metro Player.
Tom played in an era when there were no statistics kept for such things as pancake blocks wiping out potential tacklers and fostering a solid team running game; defensive pressures on opposing quarter-
backs and running backs; tackles for losses; sacks. The fact that opposing coaches freely admitted they ran away from Lawson to the other side to avoid his outstanding ability to wreak havoc on an opposing offense highlighted his exceptional talents. He was one of the most dominating two-way football players in Rockland County during the decade. This was evidenced by him being named unanimous first-team All-County lineman in his senior year.
Along the way, Tom was saluted as Lineman of the Week by The Journal-News on October 4, 1965 for his performance the previous Saturday. In an early-season game Tom led the blocking for a crushing running attack in a game that the Rams won 32-0 against Tappan Zee. On defense he caused a mid-air fumble, which a teammate returned for a touchdown.
Tom had other spectacular games as well, such as the season finale the week of November 6, when as a defensive end in the first quarter he blocked a punt at the Nanuet 5-yard line, which led to a 1-yard touchdown on Clarkstown’s first possession in league championship. Tom was selected as All-County honorable mention behind Ram first-teamers Jim Malfetti (who was Rockland Player of the Year) and Bryan Hassett, as well as second-teamer Charlie Holbrook. In some people’s estimation, the 1965-66 Clarkstown team was one of the best in school and Rockland history.
Tom’s least recognized great sports accomplishments were in track & field. He himself didn’t dwell on his significant achievements in that sport. However, he was the 1965 Rockland County meet champion in the shot put and an All-County selection as a junior in the shot put. In his senior season he had multiple dual-meet wins in the shot put and discus. On April 21, 1966 he had the County’s best throws in the shot put and discus, outdistancing about 24 competitors in dual meets around the county that day. The following week, April 30, came another dual winner day for Tom. Later that year he teamed with teammate Ken Arni to capture the shot put title and set the meet record for the event at the prestigious Rockland County Invitational Relays, which was the precursor to the Nanuet Relays. He was an All-County selection in the discus as well. Again, as in the football season, Tom Lawson was the leading scorer for the Clarkstown track team.
In June of 1966 he was selected, along with Bryan Hassett, as the Most Outstanding Athletes in Clarkstown High School for the 1965-66 school year. A good student as well as an outstanding athlete, Tom received a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame.
His years with the Fighting Irish started out with a bang in ‘66 with a 10-10 tie between No.1 Notre Dame and No.2 Michigan State, which brought the eventual national championship to South Bend that year. Other highlights included playing against Army at Yankee Stadium, and being the starting tight end for quarterback Joe Theismann in what was billed as the national championship game against No.1 Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl.
After graduating from Notre Dame with a BA in Economics, he was an NFL fourth round pick of the Chicago Bears. The selection was nullified due to the fact Tom had remaining collegiate eligibility. He then was chosen by the Baltimore Colts as the third pick in the first round of the supplemental draft, as an offensive tackle. He also played offensive tackle for the New York Jets. Tom’s stints with both the Colts and Jets were short before a recurring shoulder injury forced him to give up his
football career. He did not appear in any regular-season NFL games. Memorable events include being in the huddle with NFL Hall of Famer John Unitas, trying to block Ben Davidson in the Oakland Coliseum, practicing against Bubba Smith, and playing in Shea Stadium with Joe Namath.
In summary, Tom earned seven varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He played on three County championship teams combined in football and basketball. He was a unanimous first-team All-County football selection in 1965 and made All-County in track, being the County meet champ in 1965 and earning All-County in the discus in 1966. He also was Rockland County Invitational Relays meet champ in the shot put. Tom was voted as Most Athletic in his high school senior class. He was inducted into the Clarkstown Hall of Fame in 2001.
Tom was a magnet for Division I college coaches. Why? Well, for starters, his size in high school as a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end, which was huge in the 1960s, and basketball guard, practically unheard-of dimensions for a backcourt hoops player. He also drew coaches’ attention because of his athletic skills and versatility. He earned a football scholarship to Notre Dame, considered the premier college program in the nation at that time. He has been credited and praised by numerous Rockland County coaches and athletic directors as “the first big-time athlete” who opened the door for many athletes after him to be recruited by college coaches who had previously passed over athletes from Rockland County, which is New York State’s smallest county geographically outside of NYC’s five boroughs. Professionally, Tom worked in sporting goods sales with Joe Lombardi, the brother of Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi.
An entrepreneur in spirit, he developed a wide scope of skill sets in sales, marketing and product development. He is listed as inventor or co-inventor on more than 20 U.S. utility and design patents. Tom married former Clarkstown cheerleader Penny Alexander and has loved and “tormented” her for the past 51 years. They have been blessed with four children and five grandchildren. Tom’s brother Bobby Lawson was inducted into the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.