"Big Four" Highlights


Not a Total (Super Bowl) Loss

Rams exec counts health, family, faith as wins

By Matthew Davis and Dave Hrbacek, Catholic News Service

Los Angeles Rams executive Tony Pastoors suffered a disappointing Super Bowl loss, but the experience was nothing like the trial we underwent as a newborn. When he was 5 days old, his mother, Betsy, knelt in a hospital chapel to pray that his life would be spared.

Born Sept. 24, 1987, he was a “huge baby” who weighed 11 pounds, Betsy recalled. But, after bringing him home, she quickly discovered he wasn’t able to have a bowel movement. Doctors diagnosed him with Hirschsprung’s disease, which attacks the colon, and he was scheduled for surgery.

Tony Pastoors, vice president of football and business administration for the Rams, poses with his parents, Pat and Betsy.
(CNS photo/Pastoors Family)

Her prayer for his life were heard. Yet in those tense and prayerful moments, she never imagined that he would not only survive but thrive as he went on to star in football at Totino-Grace Catholic High School in Fridley, Minnesota. He played defensive back and quarterback, and helped the team to two state championships. He then played defensive back all four years at Dartmouth College.

The summer after graduating from Dartmouth in 2010 with a history degree, he landed a front-office job with the then-St. Louis Rams. Now the vice president of football and business administration, he helped build the franchise, which moved to Los Angeles in 2016, into a Super Bowl team. He had a hand in draft picks and took part in interviewing Sean McVay, who was hired as head coach in 2017. In his second season, McVay led the Rams to the Super Bowl, which lost to the New England Patriots Feb.3, 13-3.

Just days before the game, Betsy and her husband, Pat, boarded a plane for Atlanta, where they would reunite with their son and all would cheer for the Rams.

“It’s exciting,” said Tony, 31, of being part of the Super Bowl. “I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually had a chance to step back and reflect on any of it because it has been so busy. We’re welcoming our friends and family. We have three planes coming ... filled with friends and family.”

He made the comments in an interview ahead of the Big Game with The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Despite how far Tony has come, both on the field and in his faith, Betsy has no trouble going back in time to the day of her son’s surgery. She was warned it would be long, and the track record of the procedure was short, as doctors only had been using it to treat the disease for five or 10 years. Prior to that, babies with the disease often died, she said.

She went into the hospital’s chapel and made her plea for divine assistance.

“I do recall that very vividly,” said Betsy. “I just said, ‘You know, Lord, not today, not this guy. You don’t need this angel.’”

Seven hours later, her prayers were answered. After more surgeries over the next two years, Tony finally completed his recovery. There were no residual effects, and he eventually turned his thoughts toward athletics. He was also a success in the class room, accepted to Ivy League Dartmouth, yet his college team had losing seasons during the years he played. But his many trials forged a spirit of resilience.

Pastoors credits his high school coaches and mentors for helping him grow as a man of faith and a football player, and he now follows the lead of his new mentor, McVay, who has put the organization on a winning path since being hired before the 2017 season.

“It’s all about the team, and it’s all about the people with you and next to you and putting them first,” Tony said. “I think that’s really what this Rams team is – it’s something Sean (McVay) always says, ‘The team has a ‘we’ not ‘me’ mentality.’”

Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops