MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Did you know that the most common mascot in the NCAA is a Tiger? Well that may be so, but TOM the Tiger 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 been part of the University of Memphis tradition for the last 47 years. He is so much more than just a mascot for the school and our city. To some, he represents 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, the current living mascot for the U of M.
“I have served as the parental role in his life and I very much see him as my child, as my son. I don’t have any human kids so to me, he’s just my baby,” says Forman.
He thinks TOM views him as his friend and his protector and someone that he trusts. TOM lets him know that he loves him back and that’s something Forman doesn’t take for granted.
Forman takes care of TOM III on and off the field. When the duo travels to the games, Scott makes sure TOM III is always comfortable.
“He always makes sure that he can see me. I never leave his side,” Forman says.
Forman says the “Tiger Bug” bit him as a child watching TOM on the field from the stands. That continued as he attended the university. Once he graduated, he got a chance to live out his childhood dream.
“I spent about a decade as the apprentice learning how to do this, and when TOM II got old and passed away, it was time to carry on the tradition,” says Forman.
The Tiger Project is a full-time job and has been since he brought the 7-week-old cub home in 2008.
“When TOM was a baby, I spent a significant amount of time with him every day for the first couple of years that we had, building that bond that we have together. So that he would trust me. And now just about every day, I spend time with TOM just to be there, and spend time because I love him.”
That love, trust, and bond is easily seen during the duos playful interactions.
“TOM would still, if I would let him at 450 pounds, lay in my lap or crawl into the bed with me. He still is affectionate with me the same way he was when he was a baby,” Forman says.
Forman and TOM III are preparing for the biggest game in the history of the U of M. For Forman this is his 254th and TOM III’s 71st consecutive game. Even though the spotlight is a little brighter this weekend, the payoff remains the same according to him.
“I see it every day with every game that we go to with TOM. The kids just love him, and I was that kid all those years ago and fell in love with him, and the idea of being a part of that. And it’s a real privilege to get to do it.”
Before you hear the roar of the excitement coming from the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium each game day, you can find TOM III with Scott right by his side on Tiger Lane doing what they do best: representing the PRIDE of Memphis.