DeWitt High School football star Tommy McIntosh ready to make impact at Wisconsin
Wide Receiver McIntosh grew up as a Michigan State fan, but is changing his allegiance by soon suiting up for the Badgers.
The last time DeWitt High School senior Tommy McIntosh was at Spartan Stadium was Sept. 11, 2021, when Michigan State played Youngstown State. He sat in the stands with his Panthers teammates, cheering as MSU beat the Penguins, 42-14.
The next time McIntosh could be at Spartan Stadium is the 2022 football season, specifically, on Oct. 15.
This time, he will be on the field. He won't be cheering for MSU.
And he will be with his new team— Wisconsin.
McIntosh, a three-star wide receiver, committed to Wisconsin last summer; and in December, he signed his letter of intent. He’ll join a Badgers program that fell just outside the AP Top 25.
“That’s been my main goal, to play big-time, D-1 college football, so signing that paper, it was kind of a relief knowing that I accomplished my first goal,” said McIntosh. “It’s time to move on and start to prepare for the next chapter.”
The thought of returning to MSU, this time as the opponent, is a new reality for a kid who grew up cheering for the Spartans.
“We had season tickets to Michigan State football games growing up,” said McIntosh. “We were at just about every home game, so to be able to play in that stadium wearing a different-colored uniform, that would just be a really unique and surreal experience.”
While some programs scouted the 6-foot-5 McIntosh as a “flex” tight end like Travis Kelce or George Kittle — West Virginia and the Texas both had McIntosh ranked as their No. 1 tight end prospect — Wisconsin will keep McIntosh at wideout, where he feels the most comfortable and happy. McIntosh said he grew up idolizing former Detroit Lions All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson and thinks he can play a similar style of football.
Like Johnson, McIntosh is well-regarded as a speedy receiver with great ball skills and body control. McIntosh said he developed the latter skills playing travel basketball when he was younger.
“If it’s a 50-50 ball … he’s going to win it almost every single time,” said Rob Zimmerman, McIntosh’s head coach at DeWitt.
Zimmerman said McIntosh might have gotten “a heck of a lot more offers” if he waited longer to commit. He wanted to commit early, allowing him to better focus on his senior year and football season. McIntosh also said there was no need to wait for other offers after touring Wisconsin— he felt connected to the university right away.
“For me to walk on campus and immediately feel this sense of relief, it was something that I didn’t expect to happen at all,” said McIntosh. “So, when it did happen, I got kind of excited... I feel like I just knew at that time.”
Wisconsin’s academic reputation was also important to McIntosh; his plan is to get a degree in business to help secure opportunities outside of football, too.
"I’m really excited for him … to meet new people and go be a star somewhere else,” said McIntosh’s sister, Annie. “He kind of already conquered this area, so it’s time to move up.”
McIntosh has indeed conquered: this past season, he led the state in receiving yards and touchdowns, finished second overall in receiving yards per game, and fourth overall in total receptions. But he was willing to set all those stats aside if gave his team a better chance of winning.
“I think one of our major points of emphasis with him … is what a phenomenal team player he is,” said Zimmerman. “Whatever it took for us to win, he was all in favor of … if that meant running the football 45 times in a game, even though he’s a really high-profile receiver, he was all about running the football.”
Zimmerman said McIntosh served as the emotional leader of their team, excelling at giving positive feedback and hyping teammates up. It’s a role McIntosh is happy to fill.
“I do really enjoy being the guy that the other guys look up to and look to for advice whenever they may need it,” said McIntosh. “I really take pride in that and do whatever I can to guide my guys and support them in any way I can.”
Part of what allows McIntosh to take leadership is his intelligence. In addition to being recruited by top football programs such as Cincinnati and Wake Forest, McIntosh received offers from five Ivy League schools.
“I just remember when we were growing up … I used to do my math homework and I wouldn’t know how to do it and he would sit there, and he would just tell me how to do it,” said Annie. “And I’m like, ‘You’re in fourth grade, how do you know how to do my seventh-grade homework?’”
McIntosh’s smarts translated well to preparing for opponents during film study and picking apart the little details of defenses in games.
“He just would see things that most high school kids don’t see and was able to be a much more vocal leader this year just because of his experience,” said Zimmerman.
But it was McIntosh’s attitude, even more so than his skill or smarts, that stuck with Zimmerman. Zimmerman said McIntosh is an outstanding role model and someone who always makes time for others. McIntosh would stay after games to talk with kids in the DeWitt Junior Panthers football program.
“Growing up, I really idolized the football team … when those kids come up to us, I just try to put myself into their shoes and what kind of interaction I would want to have if I was a kid meeting my varsity football idol,” said McIntosh. “I have a lot of fun with those experiences.”
Annie said the universe rewards nice people, and that McIntosh’s niceness contributes to the success he’s found on and off the field.
“He’s just advanced in every category of his life, and I envy it … he’s just one of those kids that’s good at everything,” said Annie. “He just kind of does his own thing, puts his head down and gets his work done, and he’s nice along the way.”
McIntosh is keeping an open mind about his future and where football will lead him. He said his goals are to leave his mark on the Badgers program and to play football for as long as he can.
A more short-term goal is traveling with Wisconsin for the game against Michigan State.
“My main goal is to be able to go to that game,” said McIntosh. “I’m doing everything that I can to get myself ready, to put myself in that position to succeed early on and just trusting the guys around me.
“I’m going to give everything that I have to make myself as good of a player as I possibly can.”