July 8, 2021 by Gabrielle Martin (courtesy photos)
Thomas “Hoffy” Hoffman was born and raised in Chatham, New Jersey, which he describes as “a suburb in North Jersey which is very similar to Hingham”—in fact, “Chatham was founded seven years before Hingham and has many historical buildings dating back to the American Revolution,” he says.
He graduated from Chatham Borough High School and would go on to attend St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, graduating with a Bachelor’s in Economics; as a minor, he earned a New York State coaching certificate. “For your information,” Hoffman shares, “The Hingham High School Class of 2021 has six graduates heading off to St. Lawrence—there will be about twenty plus undergrads from Hingham there out of an enrollment of 2,400, and there are about 120 SLU alums living in Hingham!”
By his senior year at St. Lawrence, Hoffman says he knew that he wanted to go to grad school to earn a Master’s in Accounting. He also wanted to try to coach college football simultaneously: “I did so by going to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I was a coach on Dick MacPherson’s staff for two years, earned my MBA in Accounting, and completed most of the requirements for a second Masters in Sport Administration. That degree required an internship, so Coach Mac was able to get me an internship with the New England Patriots in the Summer of 1976, which was their first year training at Bryant College.”
Hoffman describes himself as “lucky,” because “the Patriots organization and the Bryant folks didn’t know what to expect of each other in that first year, so I worked eighteen hours a day being a gofer/jack-of-all-trades for nine weeks before heading back for my second year at UMass. The Pats called me in February 1977 and offered me the position of Business Manager and Traveling Secretary, so when I finished my MBA, I went right to work and didn’t finish the second masters.” Can you blame him?
He would go on to work for the Patriots for nine seasons, including the last seven as Director of Media Relations. "In 1985, after being married for four years, I finally realized that NFL may stand for National Football League, but it also stands for ‘No Family Life,’ so I decided to make a career change."
Speaking of family, Hoffman introduces us to his wife, Deb, who he married in May of 1981. He recalls when they visited friends here in Hingham in the fall of 1985; by 1987, the couple decided to move to town. In Hingham, the Hoffman family flourished: “The week before we closed on our first house, Deb found out she was pregnant with our oldest daughter Lindsey. She was born in 1988, and six years later twins Allison and Gregory arrived; then three years after that, the surprise baby Colby came along.”
“Like many Hingham parents, we went though the crazy schedule of kids activities and sports ranging from music to lacrosse, hockey, basketball, rugby, et cetera. Allison and Colby had back-to-back four-year college lacrosse careers, so this was the first time in 19 years that Deb and I did not have to attend lacrosse games!” He says in a celebratory good nature.
Today, all four of the Hoffman children have graduated from college: “Lindsey sells Missile Defense Systems for Raytheon, Allison is a commercial real estate broker in Boston, Gregory is in Army Special Forces, and Colby is in sales with the online liquor delivery platform Drizly.com,” Thomas says proudly. “I am now dealing with eight-year-old Rocky and five-year-old Rory, a pair of cats that are as tough to handle as kids!”
In addition to being a father of four and a cat dad, Hoffman is a Hinghamite who is actively involved in the community, serving on several committees in addition to coaching youth football. He’s also had quite the career, including being the youngest PR Director in the history of the NFL at age twenty-six.
Hingham, meet Thomas—but you can call him “Hoffy.”
What’s your favorite thing about living here in Hingham, Hoffy?
“Hingham is a great place to live and raise a family. [There are] great people here in Hingham, and I love being near the water, having access to Boston andMartha’s Vineyard. Plus, Hingham is a very safe place— the only thing that keeps me awake at night is worrying that E.L. Margetts makes a mistake and makes a delivery to our house, and not a pump out!”
What about your favorite place to grab a bite to eat in town?
“That’s another great thing about Hingham—many, many great places to eat—so there are many I consider favorites.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your time with the NFL?
Hoffman certainly has his share of stories from his NFL days, from his first road trip as an intern in late July of 1976 where he stumbled on four professional players chain smoking before a pre-season game—“Boy, have the times changed! I mean, in the locker room, cigarettes out, chain-smoking like they’re ready to go to war”—to a defensive lineman arriving to summer training camp at Bryant University with his nine-month-old baby! Hoffman recalls with a chuckle, “We had a baby in a playpen at the practice. Never a dull moment.”
He also fondly reminisces about the infamous Snow Plow Game, where the Patriots played the Miami Dolphins and won 3-0. “They played in the snow, and we had a John Deere tractor with a power brush on it that was brushing the sidelines and yard line markers to keep them clear. What happened was, the Pats lined up to kick a field goal and Ron Meyer, the Patriot’s head coach, waved to the guy on the tractor and said, ‘Go clear a spot so John Smith can kick.’ That was the only score in the game. Don Shula, the head coach of the Dolphins, was livid claiming it was a mechanical assist; after that, the League said you could not do that anymore—but the punchline is, the driver Mark Henderson, brushed the snow into the worst spot! He didn’t brush it where the ball would be, he brushed it where John would’ve place his foot, which made it harder for him!”
There’s a second punchline to this story, though. Hoffy shares, “I’m in the Press Box and all the writers turn to me and said, ’This is unbelievable, can you get the name of the guy riding the tractor?’ So I ran down to the sidelines, and they say, ‘Wait one minute,’ then tell me his name is Mark Henderson—I almost fell over, because he was a member of the maintenance staff on work release from Norfolk State Prison! The very next day, front page of the Globe and Herald are pictures of the prisoner Mark Henderson with the plow, with the snow brush—the lead story in both Boston papers.”
Hoffman found himself back on the road shortly after the infamous "Snow Plow Game," traveling to Seattle; on a connector in O’Hare Airport, he discovered The Chicago Times and the Sun both had cover stories of Henderson, pictured on the plow. “I land in Seattle—boom! Both major papers, front page. You’re talking about six major city papers, the top half of the page was the picture of Mark. And that’s all anybody wanted to talk about!”
You’ve had an incredibly impressive career, including spending over thirty-five years in the financial services industry, working with Capital Analysts since June of 1985 and KAF Financial Advisors, LCC since August of 2002. What drew you to financial services?
“I have a BA in Economics and a Masters in Accounting, so I had a great interest in financial services. When I decided to leave the NFL, I hoped to secure a position in either commercial real estate or financial planning. A position was offered by Capital Analysts of New England based in Quincy, so I started a practice there in June 1985. Today, my staff and I serve as fiduciary advisors on 85 corporate and nonprofit retirement plans, as well as working with individuals. I love the business because of the technical aspects, but more importantly, helping folks meet their planning needs and goals. There’s a big teaching element to the business, which I truly enjoy.”
And you’re also actively involved in the community! Tell me, when did you begin serving as a member on the Fourth of July Parade Committee?
“I joke with folks that in 2014, the first 115 people they asked turned down the committee, but I was named Grand Marshall of the Parade. I’ve always loved the Hingham Fourth of July Parade, so that was a special treat! That fall, I decided to join the parade committee—that’s when Chair Jim Murphy asked if I would take over the 50 Flags project, so not even knowing what it was, I said ‘yes.’ I believe the year before there were 35 flag installations; I asked my friend Sue Rizzo to join me and last year we had 16,000 flags installed around Hingham! This year Sue was not able to serve with me, so Erin McGourty and I are working together. The goal for this year is 20,000 flags. Being on the Parade Committee is fun—the only thing I still want to accomplish is to have a Mummers Band from Philly march in the parade.”
Can you tell us about your involvement in the South Shore Special Needs Athletic Partnership (SNAP)?
“I joined the Hingham Sports Partnership board in 1996, served as Treasurer for sixteen years, and six of those years I served concurrently as President as well. When I stepped down from the President’s role, Warren Pelissier took over as I continued to serve as Treasurer. Two years later, Warren was approached by his neighbor that had two sons that were on special needs plans at school; she said the kids really didn’t have opportunities in sports. So long story short, the Hingham Sports Partnership provided $3,500 in seed funds and, along with several others, we started SNAP.
I told everyone that I would be happy to handle the financials, apply for the nonprofit tax-free status, and be a board member, but I didn’t have any of my kids on special needs plans nor was I trained to help special needs kids; however, when I was growing up in Chatham, New Jersey, the family next door had seven girls, one of which had Down Syndrome. We’d always included Maureen in everything we did, from kickball to hide and seek. That gave me an appreciation for what SNAP could do. Needless to say, SNAP has grown much bigger and made a huge impact on many kids, something we would have never imagined. It has been very rewarding to be involved.”
And how about Hingham Youth Football?
“I have a football background—in fact, I started playing youth football at age eight—so I have been involved in football at many levels for sixty years! Back in 2002, my son Greg (one of the twins) wanted to go out for tackle football, and I told him would coach. After two years, he decided to focus on hockey as he was on two hockey teams; I told him I would make getting to his hockey games a priority, but would still coach football, and I coached his classmates up through (and including) eighth grade, then dropped down to coach my daughter Colby and her classmates from fifth through eighth grade.
Still having the coaching bug, I’ve been working with other teams and have plenty of ‘adopted sons.’ This fall will be my 20th year coaching; I’ve also served as Treasurer for four years and President for five. As I tell all the kids, ‘If you are having half as much fun as I am, then you're having a great time!’”
Hingham is home but when you need a getaway?
“That’s easy, Chappaquiddick Island on The Vineyard. As my kids say, they know their Pappy is happy on Chappy!”
What’s one thing people may not know about you?
“I was two weeks away from becoming a Special Agent in the FBI. Back in late 1978, early 1979, Head Coach and General Manager Chuck Fairbanks resigned from the Patriots and went to Colorado. There were law suits back-and-forth for several months, and I thought with a new GM coming in, I might be out of a job. I remembered that two FBI gents were on campus at UMass my second year recruiting folks with Masters in Accounting, so I asked the Patriots FBI contact to mentor me.
For the record, all pro sports teams have agents assigned from the DEA, ATF, and FBI to help with their security directors. So I went through all the tests, interviews, and background checks, and in May, was offered a position and was given two weeks to make a decision. I went into the new GM’s office (Bucko Kilroy) and gave my notice on a Thursday. He asked me to come back the next morning, so I did. He told me he was about to fire the PR Director and asked how would I like to be the new PR Director? I accepted right there and became the NFL’s youngest PR Director at age twenty-six. Things worked out great and it’s funny how life works.
My mentor was John Connolly, the FBI agent who handled Whitey Bulger and is now in prison! Just think what might have happened if I joined the FBI.”