By Garrett Mitchell
This story is part one of a two-part series highlighting the life and accomplishments of Woodruff’s own Tory Dandy, one of the NFL’s most successful player agents…
Growing up in Woodruff, Tory Dandy had dreams of becoming a professional football player.
A star for the Wolverines during the waning years of legendary coach W.L. Varner’s storied career at Woodruff, Dandy seemed to be turning that dream into reality as a player for Tusculum College and South Carolina State University. Injuries, however, forced a detour that has seen Dandy make his mark on the game he loves not as a player, but today as one of the most successful agents in the National Football League.
The journey from Varner Stadium to the bright lights of Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday, however, was filled with challenges that were overcome by lessons learned growing up in a small town where not everyone is able to break free from the binding ties of rural life.
“Growing up in Woodruff, I still feel like that was one of the best times of my life,” said Dandy. “What you don’t know is what you don’t know, and what I mean by that is, you don’t know you’re from a small town until you actually get out. Still, we had great times in Woodruff growing up.”
Dandy blossomed as an up-and-coming football player in the early 1990’s and played under Varner for three years until 1996 when, following his junior season, Dan Dickerson took over as head coach of the Wolverines. As a senior in 1997, Dandy was part of the Wolverines’ region championship-winning football team and earned All-Region honors in track in the same year. His stellar play earned him a football scholarship to play at Tusculum College in Tennessee.
It was during the same time, however, that Dandy faced his own challenges off of the field. Growing up in a single parent home, Dandy and his three sisters were raised by his mother. He did not meet his biological father until he was 28 years old. Then, two years later, Dandy lost the father who he never knew as a child.
Dandy’s own daughter, Victoria, was born when he was only a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. While he admits he was not ready then to be a father, Dandy drew upon the closeness and strength of his family to pull him through those earlier rough times.
“I come from a very close-knit family,” he said. “My mother, she raised me and my three sisters, but we had a lot of support from out family. I’m still very close to my father’s side of the family as well.”
Dandy added, “I had to realize fatherhood at a very very early age, which I wasn’t ready for, but I certainly had to realize that early.”
During those uncertain years, Dandy said, he leaned on the faith of his mother who he describes as prayerfully devoted to her children and family. That, he said, helped give him the courage to face his challenges.
“My mother worked two or three jobs to help take care of and provide for me and my sisters,” he said. “She was a very praying mother. I will never forget in high school, every morning before I would go to school, we would pray together. I think those principles and values she instilled in me helped me get to the point where I am now. She was the rock behind all of that.”
As a college junior and playing football for South Carolina State following a transfer from Tusculum, Dandy, the aspiring football star, saw his career path abruptly change. Following a tear to his rotator cuff, an injury he also suffered at Woodruff, Dandy realized that a career as a football player would not be his path to success.
Focused ever more intently academically, Dandy began to have conversations with one of his teammates who was, at the time, being recruited by representatives from several football agencies as an NFL prospect. With thoughts of perhaps becoming a college football coach or athletic director, Dandy became interested in a career as a football agent after accepting his friend’s invitation.
“He asked if I would sit in on some meetings with him while he was going through the process,” recalled Dandy. “I found it very intriguing and I started doing more research about the business. I ended up doing an internship with a smaller agency back then that was located in Greenville, SC called Synergy Sports. That is how I actually got started.”
“Until then I never really knew what a sports agent was,” said Dandy with a laugh.
Dandy began to see a path for success emerge in front of him and a way to provide for himself and his daughter while still pursuing a career in the sport he loved. Long before he would represent some of football’s brightest young stars, however, many challenges still lay ahead.
Dandy knew what he wanted to do, but making it happen would take years of work, education, and doubts from those already established in the profession. A drive to succeed and a strong pride of his small-town beginnings would drive the man who was determined not to fail.
For Dandy, the journey was only beginning.
“I’m very proud to be from Woodruff,” he said. “No matter where I go, and even in the place where I’m at now, I never lose sight of that.”