The first thing John McEvoy did after he laid eyes on his new baby daughter is what any proud papa would do. He called his family.
Then he called his old Rockhurst University soccer coach, Tony Tocco.
“He was the most influential man in my life,” said McEvoy, who was the first player Tocco recruited to the Roman Catholic university in 1969.
“My father died when I was at a young age, and he took that role in my life,” said McEvoy, now a 61-year-old father of three. “I am the man I am today because of him.”
Alumni, students, faculty and staff gathered earlier this month near St. Louis to honor Tocco, who is an accounting professor at Rockhurst and who, with 618 victories, ranks third among NCAA intercollegiate soccer coaches.
“In my long career here at Rockhurst, I have had a lot of great mentors, teachers and friendships to lead me where I am today,” said Tocco, 68.
A group of alumni created the Magis Award for him.
“We started out wanting to honor him for his more then 600 wins, but then he is so much more than a great soccer coach. Heis
Rockhurst. He’s the mainstay,” said McEvoy, who works for a title insurance company in St. Louis.
Tocco and his wife, Phyllis, brought up four children in Fairway. But his Rockhurst students and players have always been family, too.
“I think there are thousands of Rockhurst alums across the U.S. today who look back and recognize what an impact Tony had on their lives,” said Rick Sullivan, now the CEO of St. Louis Public Schools.
Tocco had a knack for directing his students to where their talents would best make the transition to careers.
In 1974, he told one of his early accounting students, Denny Thum, that he should go after a job opening in the Kansas City Chiefs accounting department rather than head back to St. Louis to work for Ford Motor Co. Thum ended up working for the Chiefs for more than 35 years, finishing as team president.
“Just think,” Thum said, “Rockhurst has been around for 100 years, and Tony Tocco has been there for nearly half of them.”
Rockhurst will choose a Magis Award recipient each year, “designating someone who is a model for seeking excellence, someone who uses their God-given gifts and pursues them with great zeal, great determination and great focus,” said the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, the university’s president.