While he was playing for the Patriots during the early 1960s, Tom Yewcic's Sundays in the fall were spent at Boston University Field and later at Fenway Park. As an assistant coach on Mike Holovak's and Chuck Fairbanks' Patriots staffs, Yewcic could be found on the sideline at Fenway and then at Schaefer Stadium. And now as an active member of the New England Patriots Alumni Club, Yewcic's autumn Sunday afternoons and occasional Monday evenings are spent as a game day ambassador at Gillette Stadium.
The ambassador program was started three years ago to get the alumni involved when the Patriots played at home. Prior to the games, Yewcic and several other of New England's former players including Bill Lenkaitis, Pete Brock, Russ Francis, John Smith and Tim Fox regularly gather in the Fidelity Investments Clubhouse to meet fans and sign autographs.
"It's a nice touch for the Patriots, a nice touch for us and a nice touch for the fans," said Yewcic, who played six seasons (1961-66) with the Patriots. "The funny part about it is the club consists of players from the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and 2000s, so you have fans all the way from the beginning who've been coming since 1960. It's kind of a nice relationship.
"Of course, a lot of [fans] are going to gravitate to the era of time they witnessed the players playing, but I think they appreciate all of it because it's got tradition, it's got the history of the Patriots. I don't think the Patriots could have a better liaison between them and the public than the former players because they just spread the message a lot better than anybody else because they've been there. I think it adds a lot to all sides of the fact."
Yewcic continued. "It's nice to be recognized in such a way. More or less, we're there so they don't forget how it started, where it came from, the past. I think the fans enjoy it and I think the players do, too. It kind of re-hashes old memories."
Before Yewcic's "old memories" with the Patriots had even occurred, he was a two-sport star at Michigan State, quarterbacking the Spartans in the 1954 Rose Bowl and playing catcher on the baseball team. That was followed by four seasons of Double and Triple-A baseball, as well as a brief stint with the American League's Detroit Tigers, in addition to a season with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
"I left there after 1960 and rather than sign with an (American Football League) team I waited until '61," Yewcic said. "They were scouting all kinds of people in Canada because that was the second year of the AFL. I was contemplating offers from Buffalo, the Patriots and the Jets [then known as the Titans] and I decided the best course of action for me was to take the Patriots offer. At that time, Lou Saban was the head coach. He was very instrumental in the sense that he was pretty positive about our chances and everything.
"The funny thing about it is, he came to my hometown of Pittsburgh and we had lunch and we signed a contract and it seemed like I knew him for 20 years. Then when I came to training camp, they had traded for Babe Parilli, and I remember [Saban] coming into one of the rooms and Babe and I were in there talking. He came over and just greeted Babe and really didn't even know who I was."
It certainly didn't take long for Saban to learn Yewcic's identity. In addition to being Parilli's backup at quarterback, he had 11 carries, six receptions and was the team's punter, averaging 37.6 yards on 64 kicks. "And I was on all the special teams," said Yewcic. "It was a 32-man roster when I came in, so there weren't many people around. Guys had to play more than one position. The more you could do, the better chance you had of playing."
One of Yewcic's fondest memories of playing for the Patriots took place during the 1962 season when Parilli went down with an injury in a game against Houston and he stepped up and started at quarterback for the remainder of the season. "It's not great that he got hurt, but I came in and played the last four games of the season and we won three," said Yewcic, who threw seven touchdown passes and ran in two others. "We lost the last game when the season was relatively over on a Saturday and we ended up losing at Oakland in a meaningless game. But we had won three in a row, and that was probably my highlight, beating Buffalo, New York, San Diego."
After retiring as a player, Yewcic coached at local colleges and in 1973, for a semi-pro team, the New England Colonials. He returned to the Patriots as a special teams and offensive backfield assistant coach for Holovak and Fairbanks. "I always liked to coach," Yewcic said. "Your job is to prepare people to be ready to play the game. That's the beauty of it. You're kind of in a chess match sometimes. You want to make sure that the players don't experience anything that you haven't gone over during the course of the week so they're well prepared for the game on Sunday. I think that's very, very important."
Still the team's second all-time leading punter with 377 punts for 14,553 yards for a 38.6 average, Yewcic now resides in Arlington, Mass., with his wife, Jane. They have two children, Thomas John and Carol, and three grandchildren, 8-year-old triplets. He considers himself "retired in a sense" but remains a partner in a medical surgical company, Sanax Protective Products in Newton, Mass., which sells specialized products to hospitals and doctors.
A Western New York native, Jim Gehman has interviewed and written features about more than 300 NFL alumni players, including over 30 Hall of Famers over the last seven years. His articles have appeared regularly in various team publications and web sites, as well as on NFL.com.