Former Crimson Tide player talks football, life with PCHS injured athlete
By Nicole Burns for the FCT
Former Crimson Tide offensive lineman Thomas Rayam spends his days selling medical supplies for IntegraCare Medical. In his spare time, Rayam and his wife run a youth outreach targeting young athletes called Team Rayam.
When Rayam heard about recently-injured Phil Campbell High School player Joe Hardy, he didn’t hesitate taking an hour out of his day to talk with him. “My wife and I have done outreach work, Team Rayam work, for the last 11 years and we know – I know, as a player – the importance of self esteem, keeping a kid going, letting him know that this is just a stopping point in your life and that you’re going to have to rise above the cut to let your teammates know that you’re still with them,” said Rayam.
Hardy was injured in the first game of the season when his femur snapped during a routine tackle. Since his injury, Hardy has cheered for the team from the sidelines but admits the off-the-field position is wearing. “Don’t think that because you’re not in uniform that you don’t play a part,” Rayam told Hardy. “If you think you’re in the way and you stay away, you’re tearing the team apart.”
Rayam played for the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 1989 win over Penn State. Rayam’s famous block of Penn State’s last-ditch field goal attempt was immortalized in a Daniel Moore painting named “Desperation Block.”
Not many people remember that Rayam fractured his ankle five days before that big game. He shared the behind-the-scenes story with Hardy during their time together. “The will to be good, the will to be a team player, wouldn’t allow me to say no,” said Rayam. “I had nine tackles, two quarterback hurries and a sack, and I blocked the kick to win the game. This is how friendship works on a team. This is how the camaraderie with your boys works.”
Rayam spent 30 minutes pouring encouragement into the injured player but didn’t leave without giving him a few lessons about life off the field. The two talked girls, chivalry and faith. Rayam’s final piece of advice: “Don’t let sorrow get in your way. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Don’t feel sorry that it happened. In all plans, God has His hands in everything.”