May 1, 2018

Lycoming Football - Vanaskie named to MAC Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of Lycoming Sports Information
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – One of the most accomplished student-athletes in the history of Lycoming College, the Hon. Thomas I. Vanaskie ’74 added yet another honor to an already stacked resume when he was named to the Middle Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame, the conference office in Annville, Pa., announced on Tuesday afternoon, May 1.

“It’s a tremendous honor from the league I played for so long ago,” Vanaskie said. “To be inducted into the MAC Hall of Fame, that means the world to me. I was fortunate enough to play for Frank Girardi. He was the defensive backs coach when I came there as a freshman and as luck would have it, I was moved to defensive back. I was supposed to be a linebacker but I was undersized for that. He started me in my third game as a freshman. He got me started and I had great coaches and great teammates throughout. I also had great professors. Lycoming College did such a great job to prepare me and it’s such an underrated school. I just had great experiences there.”

Coming from a small Catholic school, Our Lady of Lourdes in Shamokin, Pa., Vanaskie had little trouble getting acclimated to the Division III level on the field or the heavy workload as a political science major. On campus, Vanaskie served as the president of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the economics honor society, and Sigma Pi fraternity. Thanks to his efforts, he earned the school’s highest honor, the Chieftain Award, given to the student who makes the largest impact on the Lycoming community.

“The way he prepared, you just knew he was going to be successful,” said Vanaskie’s teammate and current Lycoming assistant head coach Steve Wiser. “What a career. Obviously with being a judge, but also to me one of the great indicators of his success was when he got into the Capital One Academic All-America Hall of Fame a few years ago. That was obviously great for him and great for the college.”

“It’s been a long time since I coached him but I’ll tell you what, he’s one of the ones I remember,” said Girardi, who was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016. “First of all, he was an outstanding athlete. He showed right away that he was able to fit in, certainly with his talent he was able to do that and he was able to get across to other players how to be successful. I think that was one of the biggest things the team he was on took away from him - a good work ethic and how to be successful.”

Just as successful on the field as off, the defensive back was a four-year letterwinner and played three years under Girardi. He was a two-time All-MAC Northern Division selection and after a strong senior season in which he picked off three passes and had a hand in 60 tackles, he became the third player in program history to earn Associated Press Honorable Mention Little All-American honors, while also earning the school’s Tomahawk Award, given to the school’s top male athlete. He recovered two fumbles, blocked an extra point and finished amongst national leaders in punt return average, posting 11.5 yards per return and scoring on returns of 64 and 81 yards. The accolades continued for Vanaskie, as he earned ECAC All-East honors, helping him become the school’s second Academic All-American, receiving the certificate from CoSIDA and American Heritage Life Insurance. The defensive back finished his career with a then-school-record 11 interceptions and is still tied for first in program history with two punt return touchdowns.

After graduating from Lycoming, Vanaskie went on to the Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law, graduating in 1978 with Magna Cum Laude honors. He was named to the federal bench of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in 1994 and served as chief judge of the district from 1994-2006. Soon thereafter, Vanaskie was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by President Obama in Aug. 2009 and currently serves in that capacity.

In 2000, Vanaskie received Lycoming’s Outstanding Achievement Award and in 2012 was one of 20 Warriors to be named to the MAC Century Football Team. In 2013, Vanaskie earned one of the highest honors in collegiate athletics when being selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame, making him one of only 10 inductees who have graduated from Division III schools during the past 40 years. The following year, he received the Alumni Fellow Award from the Penn State Alumni Association.

“When he was a player for me, he had such great passion, not only for playing football but in his academics,” Girardi said. “He always had a great passion in whatever he did and obviously he’s so successful now as a judge.”

“He came here into a program that when he first came was struggling,” Wiser added. “Coach Girardi took over his sophomore year and he brought the best out in everybody, so Tom thrived under him in that system. He and Coach G had a special relationship. He went from here to Penn State, obviously had great success there in law school and it’s continued all the way through. He knew what he was doing. Tom always had a plan and he was always prepared.”

Vanaskie took the advice from his high school guidance counselor to attend Lycoming, before he ever even visited Williamsport. He first stepped onto campus for summer orientation and made it his home the next four years, where he turned into one of the most successful student-athletes in school history.

“It just clicked. The first time I went there was for summer orientation and I loved it. I fell in love with the school,” Vanaskie said. “It turned out to be a great place. My brother, who is a year younger than me, ended up going to Lycoming and playing football there and graduated from Lyco. It just turned out to be a great spot for both of us.”

Vanaskie was elected into the Lycoming College Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994. He is the eighth Warrior to earn induction into the MAC Hall of Fame, joining longtime coaches Girardi (football) and Budd Whitehill (wrestling), who were a part of the inaugural class in 2012, Bill Bachardy '67 (wrestling), the school's only Division I All-American, who was inducted in 2013, Rick Bealer '91 (football), a three-time All-American at cornerback was inducted in 2014, Denise (Zimmerman) Null '85 (women's swimming), a six-time All-American swimmer who was inducted in 2015, Ed Dougherty ’92 (football), a three-time All-American quarterback, was inducted in 2016, and Royce Eyer ’01 (wrestling), a national champion that held the school record for wins for 17 years.

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