To outsiders, Tommy Parran might not be the most well-known player on the Ohio State roster. He’s doesn’t score a ton of goals, and his name doesn’t usually appear on the score sheet for points at the end of games.
“He’s played a lot of games for us in his four years and he kind of goes under the radar,” Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said. “That’s just kind of his personality.”
Despite being “under the radar” on the ice, off it the senior defenseman has been an important part of the greater Columbus community for his volunteer work. It’s the main reason why Parran was named a finalist for the 2019 Hockey Humanitarian Award, which is presented annually to college hockey’s “finest citizen” for leadership in community service.
“It’s an honor. It’s a prestigious award,” Parran said of being a finalist. “If you read through the list of nominees, anyone could have been a finalist. They’ve all done a lot of great stuff.”
Parran seems to do enough work for many people. One of his main passions is community service, so much so that, as a executive board member of Ohio State Student-Athlete Advisory Committee he formed a community service subcommittee. He wanted to encourage all 36 of OSU’s athletic programs to get out in the community and volunteer even more than they already were, and he said it has worked very well as a means of coordinating volunteer work in the community.
“We want to get people to increase involvement and grow the percentage of student athletes that are volunteering,” he said. “The goal is to kind of raise awareness and to help us have a greater effect in our community.
“But I wouldn’t have been able to have this effect by myself. I owe a lot of our success to my committee members, because they do a great job getting their teammates to volunteer.”
Parran said he hopes similar committees will spread in conjunction with SAAC groups at other Big Ten schools and beyond.
When Parran goes out to the community, his main priority is giving back. He likes working with kids at Columbus-area schools, and it’s natural that the English major would say that he likes literacy programs the most. One of them — the 2nd & 7 Foundation — was started by former Buckeyes football players. Every Thursday and Friday, OSU athletes go read to students and talk to them about the importance of education.
“It’s a lot of fun. Sometimes the kids know us and the sport, and sometimes they’re not familiar with your sport, and you get to tell them all about it,” he said. “It’s nice to show them that school helped us get to this place where I could pursue my academics and athletics at the same time. Kind of showing them that anything is possible.”
Parran also spends a lot of time at the South Side Early Learning Center, an early childhood education center that also helps children and disadvantaged families in Columbus.
“It’s not just your average head start program,” he said. “They have meals, they have snacks, they have all-day daycare, they have a Boys and Girls Club right there on site. … They do a ton of good work there and the kids are amazing.”
Parran chose South Side as his charity of choice — meaning that, as a finalist, the Hockey Humanitarian Foundation donated $500 to South Side. But he also, through Twitter, was able to get matching donations from John Buccigross and local pizza chain Donato’s, which increased the total to South Side to $1,500.
“The work they do is really important, because there’s not a lot of good early childhood education in a lot of areas around Columbus, and if there is, you have to pay a lot of money for it,” he said. “So what they do is really important. And our student athletes love going there.”
With all that going on (not even mentioning a service trip to Thailand or his involvement with OSU’s Peer Educators or helping organize a mental health conversation on campus) it would seem like Parran has little time for hockey. Untrue — Rohlik said Parran is a leader on the ice, as well. He’s played in 33 of 35 games for the Buckeyes this season and has skated in a total of 120 in his four-year career. He has just two points this season (a goal and an assist).
“He just goes out and plays. He’s not all about getting points. He defends, he played a lot of minutes,” Rohlik said. “He’s been under the radar for four years, and then you turn the page and look at how many games he’s played, it’s pretty amazing. He just goes out and does his job.”
Rohlik calls Parran “a prime example of a student-athlete.”
“Any time we need a volunteer in the community, he’s the first to respond,” Rohlik said. “And he often does it on his own. That tells you what kind of leadership he has. And he’s been doing it not just this year, but all four years. This isn’t just a one-year deal, and that’s what impresses me.”
Parran’s Ohio State career is winding down, and he and his senior class teammates have done a lot — including reaching the Frozen Four for just the second time in school history last season, and winning the program’s first-ever league title (in any conference) this year. And although there’s still season left — the Buckeyes will make the NCAA tournament again for the third straight season — Parran is already thinking about life after college.
“I’ve been studying a heck of a lot for the LSAT and I’m planning on law school,” he said. “But I also plan on playing professionally somewhere. … Obviously we can’t figure that out until our season’s over, though, and it’s not until after April 13.”
But Parran knows one thing. Whenever he’s done playing hockey, he’d prefer to come back to his adopted hometown of Columbus and give back even more to the community.
“I love Columbus,” he said. “If I don’t have to leave, why leave?”