In the competitive world of college football, patience is a virtue not everyone possesses.
Tommy Doman is a testament to this virtue. The journey of this dedicated athlete, from his soccer roots in fourth grade to patiently waiting behind seasoned players like Brad Robbins and Jake Moody, showcases his unwavering commitment to his craft.
Doman’s humble beginnings on the soccer pitch seem almost poetic now. As he recalls, “Obviously I was a soccer player in fourth grade, and they’re trying to find a kicker for the team and I was the best one. I would just spend hours out there just because I just had so much fun.”
This early inclination towards football paved the way for an enduring passion that would ultimately see him start for the Michigan Wolverines.
However, Doman’s journey to the main stage wasn’t a cakewalk. The shadows of Brad Robbins and Jake Moody loomed large, but Doman’s patience and determination kept him anchored. He found comfort in personal growth, revealing, “I think just staying busy, staying focused, getting better — if you learn and you just keep on getting better, then your time will come and it’ll be worth it.”
That athletic prowess, which Doman honed over the years, became a significant edge. While punters aren’t thought of as the most athletic players on the field, athleticism separates the great ones from everyone else.
“Being an athlete just helps you play at a high level,” Doman said. “If you really look at what separates guys from even college to NFL, athleticism is a big thing.”
But athleticism isn’t just about raw power, especially when it comes to punting. The finesse and precision Doman speaks of show the complexities of the position.
“Most people think it’s just kick as hard as you can, but with punting, you have to stay linear and float the ball out,” Doman said.
His transition from being a kicker to a punter has seen its fair share of challenges. While Doman kicked and punted in high school, it was unclear which path he would take at Michigan. Sitting behind two noteworthy players, Doman continued to work at both positions. It wasn’t until this season he switched to punting full-time when the Wolverines brought in Louisville transfer James Turner to kick extra points and field goals.
In addition to punting, Doman was also asked to perform kickoff and field goal holding duties. The only problem was he had not really done either. So he found himself drawing from his earlier experiences.
“With doing kickoffs, it’s a similar swing to field goals, so I still use that background, which I think has actually really helped me out a lot because (of that) that swing plane, but punting has been the main focus,” Doman said.
Such adaptability showcases Doman’s unwavering commitment to excellence, a commitment that extends to facets of the game like holding, where he admits before this season, “I’ve never held (for a kicker) in my entire life, but just reps and trust.”
He admitted doing a lot of work in the offseason with the jug machines, and even leaning on wide receivers to teach him how to catch the ball properly.
“I talked to Peyton O’Leary about it and a couple of other wideouts too because (I needed to learn) to catch (the ball) on the outside,” Doman said. “I was having an issue catching the top part of the ball and I was (taught) to follow the laces to get the knee of the ball because that’s the main thing. Especially with that, I took that as being able to find out where the laces are to spin the ball (for punting).”
Mentorship beyond catching played a significant role in Doman’s growth. Learning from Robbins was instrumental.
“Brad (Robbins) is definitely a hangtime guy and coming in, I was not known for hangtime,” Doman said. “I was just really good for consistent spirals and stuff like that but didn’t really go that high. So just learning the technique from him and turn situations he uses. Not just learning how to do it, but the situations to use it and how that benefits your punts and helping the team win.”
For Doman, football isn’t merely a game or a career — it’s a medium through which he can contribute to the greater good of the team. He expressed, “I think I get most excited when it’s a very good situational plan — just being able to execute and help our team in those situations are my favorite.”
Doman’s journey offers a blueprint for young athletes everywhere: that with patience, hard work and a love for the craft, success is inevitable.