Rams executive, Totino-Grace alumnus Pastoors says building a Super Bowl team is about people

| February 1, 2019 | 0 Comments

Tony Pastoors, center, stands on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis with his parents, Pat, left, and Betsy in 2017 when the Los Angeles Rams played the Minnesota Vikings. Courtesy / Pastoors family

When Tony Pastoors was five days old, his mother, Betsy, kneeled in a hospital chapel to pray that his life would be spared.

He seemed fine when he was born Sept. 24, 1987, at United Hospital in St. Paul. Betsy described him as a “huge baby” who weighed 11 pounds.

But, after bringing him home, she quickly discovered something was wrong. He wasn’t able to have a bowel movement, so she brought him back in. Doctors diagnosed him with Hirschsprung Disease, which attacks the colon, and he was scheduled for surgery Sept. 29.

She pleaded for God to save him, and in those tense and prayerful moments never imagined that he would not only survive the surgery, but go on to star in football at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley. He played defensive back and quarterback, and helped the Eagles win state championships in both his sophomore and junior years. The climb up the football ladder continued after he graduated from T-G in 2006. He went on to Dartmouth College, where he played defensive back all four years.

The summer after his graduation from Dartmouth in 2010 with a history degree, he landed a front-office job with the then-St. Louis Rams. Now the vice president of football and business administration, he played a role in building the franchise, which moved to Los Angeles in 2016, into a Super Bowl team, helping with the draft and taking part in interviewing now-Head Coach Sean McVay. The Rams fell to the New England Patriots Feb. 3 in Super Bowl LIII, 13-3.

“It’s not the result we certainly were hoping for, but when we look back on the 2018 season … you really can’t help but smile,” said Tony, 31. “It was a special year (and) a special group of guys. A lot to be proud of.”

“I have a chance to be around these guys every day, and it’s special to be in a game like that,” he added. “It only makes the result more difficult because you stand in the locker room right after that game.”

Just days before the game, Betsy and her husband, Pat, who both graduated from Totino-Grace in 1980, boarded a plane for Atlanta, where they would reunite with their son and all would cheer for their newest blue-and-gold football squad.

Tony said the “business side” of the game hits home as he knows that this particular set of players might not all be together again. “Things change with contracts, and we don’t quite know how some things will work out with certain players — who will be back [and] who won’t be.”

Despite how far Tony has come, both on the field and in his faith, Betsy has no trouble going back in time to the day of her son’s surgery. She was warned it would be long, and the track record of this procedure was short, as doctors only had been using it to treat the disease for five or 10 years. Prior to that, babies with this disease often died, she said.

She went into the hospital’s chapel and made her plea for divine assistance.

“I do recall that very vividly,” said Betsy, 56. “I just said, ‘You know, Lord, not today, not this guy. You don’t need this angel.’”

Seven hours later, her prayers were answered. After more surgeries over the next two years, Tony finally completed his recovery. There were no residual effects after that, and he eventually turned his thoughts toward athletics.

The youngest of three brothers, he followed in the footsteps of Tim, 35, and Ted, 33, and played three years of varsity football at Totino-Grace. He also competed on the track and field team.

Of equal importance to the family was following the faith tradition. Tim and Tony both won the Lasalian Man of the Year award their senior year. It is a faith-based award given to one senior boy and one senior girl each year. The youngest of the Pastoors children, Traci Bennington, 29, now serves as a campus minister at Totino-Grace and values even more the faith she sees in the older brother she got to go to school with for two years at T-G.

Totino-Grace quarterback Tony Pastoors gets ready to throw a pass in the Class 4A state championship game against Sartell-St. Stephen Nov. 26, 2004. His team won the game 27-6. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

“Just like on the football field, Tony shows leadership in his faith,” said Bennington, who began working at the school in 2012 as both a teacher and a track coach, later becoming a campus minister. “He was a member at T-G of our student ministry team, and I, being a younger sibling, got to observe and watch that. And now, being in charge of it [ministry], I know that faith in high school is a challenging thing, to be the kid to stand up and talk about their faith, and to be a reader at Mass. And, Tony was never ashamed or afraid to do that.”

He also did service, both after school and on trips, which Traci said inspired her to do the same. Tony took those traits onto the field, where he distinguished himself among his teammates, and earned the respect of his oldest brother, who joined the coaching staff in 2003. Though he did not coach Tony directly, Tim had plenty of opportunities to witness his brother’s strong work ethic.

“He was a great leader, but also a great player,” said Tim, who works at Totino-Grace as director of facilities and technology. “Since I’ve been here, I don’t know that we’ve ever had a player win two conference awards in back-to-back years like he did. His junior year he was the conference offensive MVP and then his senior year, he was the conference overall MVP [both for the North Suburban Conference].”

The success quickly faded after he graduated from T-G. Dartmouth had a losing season every year he played, and the Rams were in the midst of a string of years in which they did not have a winning season. His first year, they finished 7-9, and  they finally had a winning season a year ago, when they went 11-5 and lost in the first round of the NFC playoffs.

The losing seasons at Dartmouth and with the Rams forged one of his many character traits: resilience. As he went about his business with the Rams, he strived to “continue to look ahead, [keep] working and hopefully setting a team up, setting the organization up for, hopefully, brighter days.”

Pastoors credits his coaches and mentors at Totino-Grace for helping him grow as a man of faith and a football player, and he now follows the lead of his new mentor, McVay, who has put the organization on a winning path since his hiring before the 2017 season.

“It’s all about the team, and it’s all about the people with you and next to you and putting them first,” Tony said. “I think that’s really what this Rams team is — it’s something Sean [McVay] always says, ‘the team has a ‘we’ not ‘me’ mentality.’”

Betsy surely sees that in action, such as the moments following the Rams win over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game. TV stations were filming inside the suite where owners and team administrative personnel were seated. Tony chose to duck away, leaving Betsy and Pat disappointed they didn’t get to see him on TV.

However, Betsy was not surprised.

“That’s Tony,” she said. “He’s the quiet guy that does his work and works hard… . Obviously, he wouldn’t be where he is if he didn’t work as hard as he does. But, you know, we’re certainly very proud of him, and we always said God had a plan for [him.]”

– The Catholic Spirit reporter Matthew Davis contributed to this story


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