“One of a kind”: O’Malley remembered by friends, family, teammates
Thomas O’Malley’s star shined brightly while playing football for Darien and Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles back in the 1980s.
More importantly than his athletic talents, O’Malley was, in the words of Blue Wave boys lacrosse coach Jeff Brameier, someone who “got along with everybody and was a wonderful person.”
The impact O’Malley had on those around him could be seen clearly in the outpouring of emotions from past teammates, friends and family, as they reacted to the news of his passing Saturday at the age of 54.
O’Malley, who was living in Norwalk, is survived by two daughters, Kelly, 13, and Riley, 11, as well as his father James, older brother Seamus, sisters Patricia Bell and Erin Mikos, and several nieces and nephews.
“Tommy was one of a kind,” Darien native and family friend Courtney Harrison, said. “A gentle giant with a heart of gold. He was and always will be family. The best big brother a child could ask for. His fierceness on the field, coupled with his kind, gentle nature off was a combination of pure magic to all who loved and admired him. He loved his family, and was so proud of his girls. His kind, humble spirit I will forever hold dear.”
O’Malley was a tremendous linebacker and tight end for Darien football in the early 1980s. A member of the DHS Class of 1985, he played for head coach Jim Girard, who went on to become the Wave’s athletic director. Mike Sangster was the team’s defensive coordinator at that time, with Brameier and Steve Lauten part of a strong staff.
“He was a gifted athlete and a physical specimen,” Brameier said. “In high school he was in the range of 6-3 and 220 pounds, but he could run and jump, too. You don’t go to a big-time Div. I sports program like Florida State without being a great athlete.”
O’Malley was also a standout baseball player for the Blue Wave, something which obviously stayed in the family as his nephew, Sean, helped Darien win FCIAC baseball championships in 2016 and 2018. Sean had the game-winning hit in the 2016 final at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, and is now a sophomore on the baseball team at Salve Regina University.
Following his graduation with the DHS Class of 1984, Thomas O’Malley joined Bowden and the FSU football team on a full scholarship, and the team went a combined 38-9-1 during his four years at the school from 1985-88.
The Seminoles were 11-1 in O’Malley’s junior and senior seasons, beating Nebraska 31-28 in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 1988, and Auburn 13-7 in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 1989. In the game against Auburn, O’Malley had two catches for 31 yards.
Florida State finished ranked No. 2 in the Coaches and AP polls in 1987, and No. 3 in both polls the following year.
During his FSU career, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound O’Malley caught 47 passes for 530 yards and three touchdowns as a tight end, including 19 receptions for 210 yards and a pair of TDs as a senior.
His skills even landed him a shot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“He was one of those guys who went out there and made a mark for himself playing for Florida State for Bobby Bowden,” Brameier said. “Florida State had some pretty awesome teams then and he was part of that.”
Many of his former teammates expressed their sadness in the past few days.
“Tough news to share. A good friend and teammate of mine, Tom O’Malley passed this afternoon! Prayers!!! Two beautiful girls, please keep them in your prayers,” Bill Ragans, a former defensive back and teammate of O’Malley’s, wrote on Facebook.
Harrison said that O’Malley made an impact on many people.
“To know Tom was a blessing,” Harrison said. “To witness Tom’s ability and character was a gift. He touched so many lives. We all watched him and his career and cheered. I can honestly say we all loved him, and always will! He always had my back and I can never repay that. He was just too good for this world.”