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Ramapo High School
Class of 1974

Tom Mulroy rose from the playing fields of East Ramapo
schools to become one of Rockland County’s most accomplished
soccer players and a major catalyst in the sport both in
the U.S. and worldwide. He played professional soccer for 13
years with 13 teams in five indoor and outdoor leagues, and
smoothly transitioned to a career as a nationally recognized
youth clinician, promoter and ambassador of the sport. He
currently owns and operates his own sports marketing company,
Soccer Marketing & Promotions, traveling the world to
promote “The Beautiful Game” and staging highly visible
soccer-oriented events.

One of Tom’s career highlights occurred in August 1976, during
the final game of his first season of pro soccer, with the Miami
Toros of the North American Soccer League (NASL). Signed
at age 19, he was the youngest player in the league. Miami was
playing at Yankee Stadium against the New York Cosmos, a
team that featured a galaxy of world-class players, none more
revered than the incomparable Pelé. After the Brazilian superstar
scored early in the game, midfielder Mulroy was assigned
to cover him. Although Pelé beat Tom for a spectacular bicycle
kick goal (an over-the-head backward shot), he was so
impressed with Tom’s skillful marking that, at game’s end, he
stripped off his famed No. 10 playing jersey and gave it to the
young defender, a sign of ultimate respect. A Journal-News
photo that captured Tom’s guarding of Pelé attained wide
circulation and helped Mulroy gain entreé in his bid to train
with European teams.

Expert Mentoring

Tom was introduced to soccer at age 12 by John Sautner of the
Spring Valley SC, then continued club soccer under the
legendary Frank Rottenbucher of the Clarkstown Soccer Club.
At Pomona Junior High, he was guided by Fred Bloom, his
eighth-grade coach, and Rick Meszaros, his freshman team
mentor. His varsity coach at Ramapo High School was the late
Gary Schoonmaker. “All of these coaches, they were my father.
Without them, I would have no guidance,” says Tom, the
product of a single-parent household in a “rough, poorer”
section of Hillcrest where drugs were a constant temptation
and reality. “If it were not for the sport of soccer and the direction
that it took me in my life, I believe I would be dead or in jail.”

“I was growing up in Rockland County and being introduced
to soccer in the late 1960s and early ’70s, when soccer participation
was virtually nonexistent. In fact, there was only one
youth soccer team north of the New York City ethnic
communities, so we had to travel every weekend to play against
communities such as the Greek Americans in Astoria, Queens,
the Brooklyn Italians or the German Hungarians in Maspeth,
Queens. It was like a World Cup every weekend. The scarcity
of people playing created an environment where the true
soccer lovers in Rockland had to find each other and stick
together. This unique environment is where I flourished as a
soccer player and as a human. Teammates like Hervé Guilliod,
Ron Dufrene and Rick Derella, to name a few, helped me hone
my skills on and off the field. And the coaches I had growing
up in Rockland provided me with confidence and guidance to
become a leader.”

Schoonmaker remembered his former midfielder’s growth in a
1983 Journal-News article. “He was not naturally gifted but he
developed all the skills,” Schoonmaker said then. “He acquired
a soccer sense you just can’t teach. Of all the players I’ve had,
I would have to rank him No. 1, along with Ronil Dufrene,”
who was a No. 1 draft pick in the 1983 NASL draft and played
with Mulroy on the Fort Lauderdale Sun of the outdoor United
Soccer League (USL).

Scholastic, Collegiate, Professional Success

In 1974, Tom led the Ramapo Gryphons to the Rockland PSAL
and Section 9 championships and was a first-team All-County
selection. After graduating from Ramapo, he spent three
semesters at nationally ranked Ulster County Community
College, twice earning junior college first-team All-America
honors and leading the Senators to the NJCAA final four.
He also played on the U.S. Youth National Team that competed
in the inaugural FIFA/Concacaf youth tournament in 1974.
After Ulster, Tom embarked on his 13-year pro soccer odyssey,
which included an all-star berth in the 1979 Major Indoor
Soccer League season, playing for the Pittsburgh Spirit; team
championships with the USL’s Fort Lauderdale Sun and
Louisville Thunder of the indoor American Soccer League; and
earning the honor of playing in the 1989 World All-Star Game
in Peru, which served as the farewell game of retiring Peruvian
World Cup star Teofilo “Nene” Cubillas.

Once Tom caught the soccer bug at age 12, it became his
dream – one might say his obsession – to be a professional
soccer player. By his reckoning, he trained 40 hours a week,
kick-dribbling a ball everywhere he went. Those ball skills were
put to good use in 1979, when Tom, ever the showman,
ascended the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State
Building and juggled a soccer ball 12,295 times without letting
it touch the ground – a world record at the time, as certified
by the Guinness Book of Records.

Teaching and Promoting “The Beautiful Game”

Tom’s exceptional ball wizardry, combined with his flair for
showmanship, has led to a successful career as a coach, clinician
and promoter of the sport. Nicknamed “Soccer Tom,” he was
dubbed “the foremost soccer entertainer in the country” by
Shep Messing, the former Cosmos all-star goalkeeper. “His
ball control skills, balance and agility are unmatched by anybody
in the country,” Messing enthused. Tom, a U.S. Soccer
Federation A-licensed coach with an NSCAA national advanced
diploma, has trained coaches on every development
level and performed clinics for thousands of young players.
While playing with the MISL’s New York Arrows, he estimated
that his kids-clinic audience reached an astonishing 450,000
children in a single year. He served as Director of Soccer Educational
Programs, an institute devoted to the development of
American youth soccer players.

On the international level, Tom served as a spokesperson for
the 1994 World Cup, which was hosted in the U.S., and a consultant
for World Cup Organizing Committee. He was a
member of the 1996 Olympic Soccer Games Executive
Committee, when the Games were held in Atlanta, and was
also a member of the USSF Professional Planning Committee.
Tom founded his Miami-based soccer marketing firm in 1988
and operated it until 2009, when he sold the company to
Brazilian-based Traffic Sports, which owned the NASL’s Fort
Lauderdale Strikers. After three years as vice president of grassroots
events and sponsorship activation with Traffic Sports, he
was appointed president of the Strikers and remained in that
position until the franchise was sold in November 2014. Tom
then re-launched Soccer Marketing & Promotions. He has
designed and implemented such successful soccer initiatives as
Copa Latina, “FanZone” and the 96-Mile Olympic Ball Run,
and was recently named soccer director of the World
OutGames Miami 2017, a sporting and cultural event hosted
by the gay community and open to all participants.

Tom lives in Miami with his wife, Paola, and daughter, Sabrina,
11. In addition to his Rockland Sports Hall of Fame honor, he
was inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 1993 and named
to the NJCAA “Team of the Century.”

“Today soccer is a mainstream sport in the U.S.A.,” Tom
explains, “but in my entire early life it was a completely misunderstood
sport for foreign kids or kids who could not make
other sports teams. I wanted people to know the passion and
the love that only soccer has provided for billions of people
around the world. It doesn’t matter how big you are or how
strong you are, if your feet reach the ground you can play and
you can play for your entire life. It doesn’t take much money –
all you need is a ball and off you go. It’s the world’s game and I
wanted people in my country to experience the passion the
way I felt it. So even if I had to do it one person at a time, one
clinic at a time, it is something that I will be sharing with anyone
who crosses my path for the rest of my life.”