By Caleb Odom
Tommy Groce grew up during a time when playing sports year-round was just a way of life.
Now the Tanner High School four-sport athlete and former Troy defensive back will be inducted into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame on June 15.
While at Tanner in the early 1970s, Groce dominated on the football field and on the baseball diamond. Looking back, Groce has to laugh because his high school days have become fuzzy.
“It gets to the point where it is kind of hard to remember it all,” Groce said. Groce was All-County in ‘71 and ‘72, playing football along with being a four-sport letterman for three years at Tanner.
“It was great, and everything has changed over the time,” Groce said. “Back then we probably only had 25 or 28 people on the team. We played both ways most of the time, and didn’t think anything about it.”
Groce credits playing so many sports to a time period that lacked the Internet, video games and other forms of modern technology that kids spend their time with now.
“We didn’t have a whole lot to do so we pretty much transitioned from football to basketball,” he said. “Of course as soon as we got through with basketball and got into the spring, we were transitioning into baseball and track.”
For Groce, that move from the hardwood to the pitching mound was his favorite, and his numbers back that up.
Groce had a 6-2 record on the mound for Tanner in ‘72 on his way to striking out 70 batters that year. He was no scrub in the batter’s box, either, sporting a .346 average, with 29 RBIs and three home runs.
But it was in ‘73 when Groce exploded for the Rattler baseball team. During his senior year, Groce pitched a no-hitter against Buckhorn, set records for striking out 20 in a game and breaking the school’s single season strikeout record of 89.
Groce also broke school records in hitting with his .463 average, seven home runs and 23 stolen bases.
Tommy Groce made more history when he became the first Tanner player to sign a collegiate athletic scholarship.
Groce accepted a football scholarship at Troy University, formally Troy State, where Groce played defensive back from 1973-76.
“I was a three-year starter at Troy,” Groce said. “I had a great time at Troy, and I don’t ever regret anything about going there.”
Groce’s 10 career interceptions rank him 16th in school history.
While at Troy, Groce also pitched for the Trojan baseball team for a season, but a shoulder injury would end his baseball career.
Groce now lives in Columbus, Ga., where he works for the local parks and recreation department.