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Honouring a great

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Over the years, the voice of Tom Larscheid has become synonymous with Vancouver Canucks hockey.

As the team’s radio colour commentator for more than 25 years, Larscheid has been there and called that; think back to your favourite Canucks memories and there’s a good chance he had a hand in making them such.

In the booth Larscheid is cleverly spontaneous and infectiously enthusiastic, he’s cheerful and positive for the most part, yet not afraid to call a spade a spade – “what you see is what you get from Tom Larscheid,” as he puts it.

But there was a time, many moons ago, when what you saw is certainly not what you got from Larscheid.

He was once a fierce football player who could stop on a dime back when a bottle of Coke cost the same and this weekend he’s being honoured for it.

From 1959 to 1961 Larscheid attended Utah State University, playing for the Aggies. At 5-foot-8 and 150-pounds, he looked more like a water boy than a running back in those days and early on in his career he didn’t garner much respect at the line of scrimmage.

That changed in a hurry. Hulk and intimidation weren’t his strengths, but speed and determination were.

“Every time my number was called, my mindset was ‘I’m going to take this one all the way for a touchdown,’” said Larscheid, now 68. “Every time.”

That warrior attitude, paired with a great understanding of the game and solid blocking, made Larscheid one of the most electrifying offensive players Utah State had ever seen and a feared man throughout college football.

This weekend Larscheid is making the trip back to Logan, Utah, for the first time in over 30 years. He’s one of seven individuals being inducted into the Utah State Athletics Hall of Fame, an elite group of 50 athletes, coaches and contributors, the best the Aggies have ever produced.

“I feel honoured, I feel humbled and I’m very, very excited about the night and I’m looking forward to it,” said Larscheid, part of the hall of fame’s seventh class.

“I think it’s always a wonderful honour to be recognized for your exploits and in my particular case, it was so many years ago, that I’ve been quite taken aback by it all because it’s kind of a distant memory, to be quite honest with you.

“My mind has been in reward just trying to recall everything that happened so many years ago.”

Although hesitant to divulge his past gridiron heroics, Larscheid speaks of his football days with great pride and passion, and for good reason.

For a little guy he was undeniably the big man on campus because when the ball hit his mitts, more times than not points were scored. He still holds Utah State records for rushing yards per attempt for both a season (8.4 yards per carry in 1960) and career (7.0), and is second all-time with 40 touchdowns and 248 points – the most ever for a non-kicker.

Larscheid’s grocery list of accomplishments goes on and on: he was a two-time first-team all-Skyline Conference standout and was a twice an honorable mention for All-American, he is seventh all-time at Utah State with 2,206 rushing yards, in 1960 he became the first player in school history to reach the 1,000 yard mark when he marched for 1,044, and he finished his career with eight 100 yard rushing games and two 100 yard receiving games.

Clearly Larscheid was some kind of player, but he was never in it for the school records, he just wanted to score. And score. And score. And score some more.

“If Pavel Bure liked to score goals in hockey, I was the same way in football,” chuckled Larscheid.

“I loved to score touchdowns. To me, that was the measuring stick. Being on the small side, I had to put up numbers, I had to be productive to stay in the line-up and I knew that.”

From the time eluding classmates in grade 11 Phys Ed. flag football became too easy and he realized carrying the pigskin was his calling, Larscheid did nothing but produce.

A brief yet stellar high school career ended with him following in one of his older brothers’ footsteps as he accepted a four-year scholarship to College of the Pacific in Stockton, California – or so he thought.

Larscheid waited around all summer for an acceptance letter to arrive, only to receive word Pacific had overextended their scholarships; they informed him that going to junior college was his best bet as he was still on the small side and needed to sprout.

“That was devastating to me at the time, it almost broke my heart. But it made me stronger and I kind of faced that in my career that I was too small to do this and too small to do that but that certainly never discouraged me because I knew that I had the skill and the talent to play the game, if given the opportunity.”

He finished first-team all-conference in his lone season in junior college and that caught the eye of Utah State coach John Ralston, who quickly offered Larscheid a real scholarship.

The memories of Larscheid’s time as an Aggie are plentiful and cherished and one in particular still stands out. Karma is a funny thing and it was on this running back’s side the first time he suited up against the team that spurned him.

“Sure enough in my junior year, we played College of the Pacific and I played the greatest game of my life. I scored four touchdowns, the first time I touched the ball I went 61 yards for a touchdown, then I scored on a 6 yard sweep, then I went 88 yards for a touchdown, and that was all in the first half!

“Then in the fourth quarter we were blowing them out so badly that we were putting the second and third string units in, so I asked the coach if I could go in and return a punt and I took the punt back 61 yards for a touchdown.

“It was the greatest game I ever played and it was against a team who thought I was too small and had reneged on my scholarship. That gave me great satisfaction.”

Following three sensational years at Utah State, Larscheid was drafted by the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles but instead came to Canada and was a member of the BC Lions before his career came to a halt at the mercy of knee injuries.

Looking back that seems to have been a blessing in disguise as it led him down a path that crossed with the Canucks. A path Larscheid is still grateful to be on.

“It took me a little while to find my niche, but once I found the broadcasting booth was the place for me, I embraced it and I really put lots of hard work and effort into what I do.

“When I came to Canada, the game just captured me immediately and I became a fan of hockey. I’m happy to say I’ve been able to be in the game a long, long time and I love it to this day, I have a great passion for it.”

It’s that passion that has become synonymous with Tom Larscheid – the man, the running back and the commentator.

Canucks on Air

3 - Seasons spent at Utah State University

8 - 100 yard rushing games

8.4  - Yards per carry in 1960,  a standing school record

40  - Career touchdowns

248 - Points scored, the most ever for a non-kicker

2,206 - Career rushing yards, seventh all-time for USU

Tom & Shorty

+ Click for larger photo

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