MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Did you know thatthe most common mascot in the NCAA is a Tiger? Well that may be so, but TOM theTiger is unique, like everything the Bluff City has to offer.
TOM stands for“Tigers Of Memphis” and he is the beloved Bengal tiger that has beenpart of the University of Memphis tradition for the last 47 years. He is somuch more than just a mascot for the school and our city. To some, herepresents a powerful sense of pride. But for one man, he represents family.
Scott Forman, or“The Tiger Guy,” has a very strong relationship with TOM III, thecurrent living mascot for the U of M.
“I haveserved as the parental role in his life and I very much see him as my child, asmy son. I don’t have any human kids so to me, he’s just my baby,” saysForman.
He thinks TOMviews him as his friend and his protector and someone that he trusts. TOM letshim know that he loves him back and that’s something Forman doesn’t take forgranted.
Forman takes careof TOM III on and off the field. When the duo travels to the games, Scott makessure TOM III is always comfortable.
“He alwaysmakes sure that he can see me. I never leave his side,” Forman says.
Forman says the “TigerBug” bit him as a child watching TOM on the field from the stands. Thatcontinued as he attended the university. Once he graduated, he got a chance tolive out his childhood dream.
“I spentabout a decade as the apprentice learning how to do this, and when TOM II gotold and passed away, it was time to carry on the tradition,” says Forman.
The TigerProject is a full-time job and has been since he brought the 7-week-oldcub home in 2008.
“When TOMwas a baby, I spent a significant amount of time with him every day for thefirst couple of years that we had, building that bond that we have together. Sothat he would trust me. And now just about every day, I spend time with TOMjust to be there, and spend time because I love him.”
That love, trust,and bond is easily seen during the duos playful interactions.
“TOM wouldstill, if I would let him at 450 pounds, lay in my lap or crawl into the bedwith me. He still is affectionate with me the same way he was when he was ababy,” Forman says.
Forman and TOMIII are preparing for the biggest game in the history of the U of M. For Formanthis is his 254th and TOM III’s 71st consecutive game. Even though thespotlight is a little brighter this weekend, the payoff remains the sameaccording to him.
“I see itevery day with every game that we go to with TOM. The kids just love him, and Iwas that kid all those years ago and fell in love with him, and the idea ofbeing a part of that. And it’s a real privilege to get to do it.”
Before you hearthe roar of the excitement coming from the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium eachgame day, you can find TOM III with Scott right by his side on Tiger Lane doingwhat they do best: representing the PRIDE of Memphis.