On most Saturday afternoons for the last four years, St. Thomas football fans have witnessed tradition in the making when the team and coaches celebrate gridiron triumphs and belt out the lyrics of the Tommie victory song.
While the Tommie football program goes back 100 years, the football victory song, sung to the tune of “Oh My Darling, Clementine,” is only four years old. Coach Glenn Caruso and his wife, Rachael, wrote the song.
The week before his first game in 2008, Caruso said he was sitting at home with his wife when she asked him if he was going to have some sort of celebratory tradition for after the game. They looked for a school song, and after having no luck finding one, Caruso said they simply made up a victory song.
“It was a song that we wanted to make sure had all the qualities and embodied the most important words that we had in our program, words like ‘pride and passion,’ words that upheld the university and words that talked about working and loving the family and the brotherhood,” Caruso said.
Caruso said he had no musical background to help him compose the song’s lyrics.
“If you’ve ever heard me sing, I’m horrendous,” Caruso said. “I have a terrible voice, but I can rhyme things. That’s not too difficult.”
The St. John Vianney seminarians were among the first to get on board with the new song after hearing the football team sing it after Caruso’s first win at the helm.
“Father Baer, who was in charge of the junior seminary, asked if he could have the sheet music for it, and I said ‘Well, I don’t have sheet music for it, because we made it up,’ so I typed it up, went over there, and we sang it and practiced it together with the seminarians,” Caruso said.
The song has been a tradition that a group of seminarians who dress as construction workers, also known as Caruso’s Crew, helped carry on over the last few years. Senior Stephen Durkee, a member of Caruso’s Crew, said the victory song is ever-present in the seminary.
“When you enter the seminary, everyone learns the song together,” Durkee said. “Caruso will usually visit us at least once a year, and he just gives us a little pep talk and gets us fired up about the games, and sometimes we will sing it together.”
The football team, coaches, seminarians and fans who know the victory song sing it after every Tommie win.
“We are able to sing, if we are fortunate enough, and work hard enough to win. We’ve been able to sing it 46 times in the last four-plus years,” Caruso said.
Caruso said the words to the song hang on a poster in the football locker room as a representation of both the brotherhood of the team and the program Caruso has worked to build.
Durkee said his favorite part of the song is last lyric: ‘We will fight, work, love and defend the brotherhood until we die.’
“When the football team and everyone in the stands sing it together, Caruso is saying it’s not about him or anyone else; it’s everyone coming together,” Durkee said.
Senior Brian Kloempken, a member of Caruso’s Crew, said after playing football in high school, he understands the need for a more emotional aspect of the game.
“I know as a football team, they kind of need to have some sort of a battle cry,” Kloempken said. “If you have a poem, or a song, or something that attaches that good emotion to the game, it will bring good focus.”
While the song has only been around four years, many hope that it will be a tradition that sticks with the football program for a long time.
“I certainly hope that it will continue on,” junior Sam O’Donnell, a member of Caruso’s Crew, said. “As far as I can tell, the fan base loves it, and the seminary loves it. I hope it will become a tradition, if it hasn’t already been established as one.”
Gabrielle Martinson can be reached at email@example.com.