Tommy Moffitt Strength and Conditioning Scholarship honors coach who inspires others
When Tennessee Tech’s Department of Exercise Science and Physical Wellness presented the first Tommy Moffitt Strength and Conditioning Scholarship at its annual awards ceremony, there were a few people to recognize: the donors who established the scholarship, the man who inspired it and the young Tech graduate-turned Texas A&M coach who connected them all.
Jeff Piersall and his wife Judy, along with their Think Happy Thoughts Foundation, established the Tommy Moffitt Scholarship at Tech because of the impact Moffitt had on their son, Wes.
“For every person, there’s someone who comes along who believes in you and ignites a spirit within you,” Jeff said. “The situation with Coach Moffitt and Wes was one of those. Had it not been for Coach Moffitt, Wes would not be on the career path that he’s on.”
Moffitt says he chose to attend Tech because several of his family members graduated from Tech, including his older brother and his uncle, who was an All American in 1952. He also chose Tech so he could play football for the Golden Eagles.
“My experience was phenomenal,” Moffitt said. “There’s so much to do in the Upper Cumberland – every weekend was an adventure.”
Moffitt graduated from Tech in 1987 with a degree in health and physical education. He knew he wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach and, after graduating from Tech, coached at the University of Tennessee (under head coach Phil Fulmer and with Peyton Manning as quarterback), then at the University of Miami. In 2000, he accepted a position at Louisiana State University where he worked for 22 years as the director of strength and conditioning and assistant athletic director.
Moffitt says he believes strength and conditioning is the greatest job one can have in the coaching profession.
“What we do isn’t as results-oriented as winning and losing,” he said. “So, the athletes are always a little more at ease in our department than they are at practice. It’s a different atmosphere. You see them at their very best and at their most enthusiastic. Anyone who gets to do what I’ve done for more than 30 years is blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with some of the greatest young people.”
When Wes Piersall graduated from Tech in 2016 with a degree in exercise science and physical wellness, he, too, knew he wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach. And when Wes applied for a coaching position at LSU, Moffitt didn’t hesitate.
“When I saw that he was an alumnus of Tennessee Tech, I immediately hired him,” Moffitt said. “I said to myself, ‘If he’s a graduate from Tech, from the same department as me, then he has to be a good guy.’”
Wes moved up the coaching ladder quickly and eventually accepted a strength and conditioning coach position at Texas A&M.
Wes’s father Jeff, while not a Tech graduate himself, knows the value of a Tech education. He and his family live in Byrdstown, Tennessee, and they see Tech’s impact on their community. And they know what Tech (and Moffitt) did for Wes. That’s why Jeff decided to establish the Tommy Moffitt Strength and Conditioning Scholarship – to honor Moffitt and to provide opportunities for Tech’s EXPW majors.
“One thing Coach Moffitt would say is that Wes earned and worked for every opportunity,” Jeff said. “He never felt entitled. Coach Moffitt and Wes will help but they cannot do the job for you. You must work hard, be dedicated and continue to learn and grow. If so, they will continue to help open doors, but you must step through that door.”
Jeff established the scholarship through his Think Happy Thoughts Foundation, which was created in 2020 to support children, Christian organizations and education that inspires youth. Jeff is a graduate of Troy University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, former award-winning basketball coach, entrepreneur and author of “Dogs Don’t Bark at Parked Cars” which highlights timeless principles that remain constant in the lives and businesses of successful people, even with everchanging technology.
Moffitt, along with Jeff, Judy and Wes Piersall, attended Tech’s EXPW awards banquet to present the first Tommy Moffitt Scholarship to the 2023-24 recipient, Hunter Barnhart, a senior EXPW major from Oneida, Tennessee.
“We really want to instill a strong belief system into our scholarship recipients so they become someone Tech will be proud of,” Jeff said. “What you believe, you will become. Wes knew what he wanted to do since he was a sophomore in high school, and he pursued it.”
When Moffitt returned to campus for the awards ceremony, he visited Memorial Gym and reminisced about his classes and professors.
“It was a truly remarkable experience to be able to stand in the gymnasium where I had played basketball and wrestled and practiced football,” he said. “And it was remarkable to stand in the place where I took classes every day and speak to a group of amazing students who have done so well academically and who are ready to go out into the workforce. I went back to my old classrooms and remembered every class I had with LeBron Bell, Raymond “Bull” Brown, Raymond Drost and others. I will never, ever forget it.”
While he has received awards and recognition over the years, Moffitt says he was shocked and humbled when he learned that the Piersalls named a scholarship in his honor.
“To have someone do that was truly remarkable,” he said. “I’ve never been one to do something because of some calculated outcome. I hired Wes because he was a Tennessee Tech graduate. It was an opportunity for me to give back to a university that I love dearly and help a fellow graduate. Every time I return to Tech to visit, I am overcome with gratitude that my parents were able to afford to send me there and that I got a scholarship to play football. The amount of gratitude I have towards the Piersall family and Tennessee Tech University is indescribable.”
Photo: Jeff Piersall, Judy Piersall, Hunter Barnhart, Tommy Moffitt, Wes Piersall and Associate Vice President of University Development for Tennessee Tech John Smith