The touchdown came in the second quarter of an already lopsided football game. But for Syracuse University receiver Tommy Kane, the timing was perfect. When the 23-yearold, five-foot-eleven 180-pounder from Montreal leapt for the ball—jack-knifing in mid-air and catching it near his shoestrings—a sell-out crowd of 50,011 in the Syracuse, N.Y., Carrier Dome and a U.S. national television audience were watching. The acrobatic 29-yard reception was one of six for Kane in Syracuse’s stunning Oct. 17 48-21 win over Penn Statelast year’s top-ranked U.S. college team —and raised Kane’s already valuable stock on the indexes of National Football League scouts. Declared CBS sports commentator Brent Musburger: “They talk about Kane’s ability in hockey and basketball. With a catch like that, he can play baseball.”
Indeed, growing up in Montreal’s low-income Little Burgundy community, Kane excelled at every sport he played. As a 16-year-old, he once scored five goals during the final game of a hockey tournament at the Forum. But he also excelled in basketball-averaging 20 points a game at a U.S. basketball camp for university prospects in 1982. Kane was a star little league baseball pitcher and an outstanding running back in Montreal’s city-wide midget (ages 15 to 16) football league.
At age 19, Kane weighed scholarship offers from Michigan State, Texas A&M and the University of Miami before choosing Syracuse. Now in his fourth year, Kane entered last week’s game against Boston College with 12 touchdown receptions—a single season record for Syracuse. And with 38 catches in the team’s string of nine victories without a loss, Kane has been a major reason why the Syracuse Orangemen—ranked sixth in the nation—are headed toward a major New Year’s Day bowl game.
But the key to Kane’s future is next spring’s NFL draft. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds and has a vertical leap of 42 inches, raw skills that will
likely make Kane a first-round draft choice. But even if Kane is not selected until the second round, his first NFL contract will make him a wealthy young man. Said Toronto-based sports agent Gil Scott, who negotiated a $1.4million contract for Canadian offensive lineman Mike Shad, the Los Angeles Rams’ first-round pick in 1986: “Tommy Kane is very marketable. He
has already proven what he can do. He’s looking at the first two rounds at this point.”
Kane, an above-average student in retail management, admits that at another point during his wild youth he seemed more likely to become a criminal than an NFL draft choice. One of his neighborhood’s most notorious delinquents, Kane was once reported to the police by his own mother after stealing her car. “I was involved in a lot of mischief,” said Kane, whose par-
ents separated when he was 3. “Anything that was trouble, I wanted to be a part of.” Added Kane’s first baseball coach in Montreal, Joe Tyrell: “People really wanted to keep their kids away from him. It took a special understanding to deal with him.”
For Kane, that understanding came from Bob White, founder of a Montreal sports association for underprivileged black youths. White sent Kane to a summer basketball camp in Lennoxville, Que., when he was 12. Kane told Maclean’s: “That was one of the happiest days of my life. It was the first time I really ever went anywhere.” White later steered Kane to Syracuse after a four-month period of academic seasoning at Fanshawe College in London, Ont. And when Kane became frustrated during his freshman year at university, it was White who convinced him to persevere. Declared White: “I was just trying to help some kids from a lowincome downtown area. I wanted to create some positive role models.”
Clearly, his relationship with Kane and other youths created that and more. Seven of Kane’s Montreal friends have since received athletic scholarships at U.S. institutions. One, Wayne Yearwood, will play against Kane when West Virginia meets Syracuse in the last game of the season on Nov. 21. Indeed, last week movie star Burt Reynolds read a newspaper story about Kane in Toronto, where he was filming a movie, and called White to ask if he could recommend prospective offensive linemen for Reynolds’s alma mater, Florida State University.
Already enjoying fame and looking forward to fortune, Kane says that he plans to maintain a base in Montreal and help guide the next generation away from crime and into sports. Said Kane: “One of my biggest thrills is knowing that what I have done could help some other kids. If there is any more talent in Montreal, it will not go to waste.”
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