Tom “Killer” Kowalski passed away on Aug. 29, 2011—exactly one year ago today.
Today is really hard for me because Killer was more than just a football writer to me. He was a friend. He was someone I considered a father figure and he was the person who I looked up to more than anyone else in the world. You see, Tom was my idol and I never wanted to write about my favorite NFL franchise until I started reading his columns, articles and stories about the Detroit Lions.
Tom was someone who understood football beyond the X’s and O’s, roster moves, sacks, fumbles, touchdowns, wins, losses, draft picks, regime changes and head coaching firings. He was the writer who told you not only what the Lions did, but why the team did it and what each coach, general manager and player was thinking when it happened. He was able to get to the core of a personnel move or explain the reason why a fan should trust or not trust a coaching decision that was to be made. He could watch a 7-on-7 drill at Tuesday’s practice and tell you how efficient the quarterback who participated in the drill would play on Sunday. Tom was hardly ever wrong.
I was enamored by everything Tom Kowalski did. I never missed a radio appearance, a newspaper article or a chat session on Twitter that he took part of. As long as Tom was willing to give his opinion about my favorite team, I was going to make sure I made time to listen. I always listened. In college, I was so accustom to reading MLive.com, where Tom would post his work, that I planned my schedule around it. Its four o’clock, I better shut off the Xbox 360 and get to my computer. Tom has something important to tell me about Sunday’s game against the Bears.
To me, I looked up to Tom like a young kid looked up to Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey or Wayne Gretzky. I remember the first time I talked to Tom. He made fun of me. I didn’t care. Tom just told me I was wrong, made fun of me, told me why I was wrong and moved on with his day. Guess what? He ended up being right. The problem? Neither of us found out who was right until three years later.
What is even worse is that Aug. 29 is the day of my biological father’s birthday. Tom died on my father’s birthday. How awful is that? In celebration of my dad’s special day, my idol’s life was taken too soon, too early. That is one of the reasons why today is so rough for me. Tonight I will celebrate with my family and toast my dad for another year of fun and excitement, but at the same time, I will be mourning the loss of a man that meant nearly as much to me as the person who raised me and put a roof over my head. It’s fitting, to me anyway, that both my father and Tom are/were loyal to Bud Light and will never dare to touch another brand of brew. It’s no coincidence.
So, Tom, I’m speaking to you now. It has been one year since you have passed. I never would have figured I’d make it an entire year without hearing your take on my beloved team. You missed too much this past year. You missed the Lions historical start to the 2011 season, Matthew Stafford’s incredible year, the Lions playoff game, an NFL Draft, OTAs, training camp and, now, the preseason. I still can’t believe that you missed that playoff game. You worked so hard, you deserved to be there covering that game.
Phillip Zaroo, Anwar Richardson and Justin Rogers did their best to fill your shoes this past year on MLive, but it still wasn’t the same—no disrespect, MLive staffers. It’s impossible to replace a legend. Dave Birkett, Paula Pasche and Chris McCosky, your old friends, helped fill the void we had for Lions knowledge this past year as well. I’m also sad to report that Sean and Terp are no longer doing STK anymore. Of course, the radio show was never the same without your snark. And, lastly, the NFL teams around the nation did not forget you in 2011. Every team the Lions played against kept a seat open for you in the press box…you’ve touched so many lives. You probably never knew when you were here.
All in all, Tom, I want you to know that we are still celebrating your life every day. Not a game goes by where I don’t recall a memory I have of you because you always helped the fans notice the small things that make such a hush-hush team like the Detroit Lions seem like they’re giving away secret missile launch codes to the opposing team.
Thanks for the memories, Tom. We miss you!
Brandon J. Folsom