OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — As much as Tom Vint loved writing about sports, he might have loved playing and coaching sports more.
Vint, who covered the dominant Nebraska football teams of the 1980s and '90s as an Associated Press sports writer, died Wednesday after a monthlong battle with COVID-19, his daughter Mandy Troia said. He was 72.
Vint retired from the AP in 2005 after 25 years working in multiple roles in the Omaha bureau.
Former colleagues remembered Vint for being unflappable under deadline pressure and patient when training new staffers. Family and friends knew Vint for his willingness to help others and his passion for coaching youth sports.
A native of Marshalltown, Iowa, he played baseball for the city’s community college before moving on to Iowa State and graduating in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications. An Army veteran, he worked for the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette and then landed a job as the outdoors writer for the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star.
He joined the AP in 1980 and covered Nebraska teams that annually were ranked among college football's best and broke through with Tom Osborne's first national championship in 1994. Vint found a common bond with Osborne.
“As I remember, he was something of a fisherman and we occasionally visited on that topic,” Osborne said. “He was a nice guy, and I appreciated his service as a reporter.”
Vint also was a fixture at the old Rosenblatt Stadium, where he covered the College World Series every year, and in the press rooms at high school state championship events. Vint also wrote and edited news stories and served as state broadcast editor.
Mark Thiessen, now Alaska news editor for the AP, worked with Vint for five years in Omaha. He said Vint was the designated trainer for new employees, a role that fit his personality.
“He was an incredible teacher and mentor,” Thiessen said. “AP has a language all its own and weird idiosyncrancies. He was the most patient teacher. Omaha was always a good training ground for AP writers. I can’t imagine how many people he put on the right path.”
Dave Zelio, an assistant sports editor for AP who started his full-time career in Omaha, recalled Vint's gentle patience.
“He taught me how to keep a baseball scorebook — at the College World Series, no less — and like a proud father watched me write up my first CWS game with a kind and helpful look over my shoulder,” Zelio said. “He was simply about helping other people do their best and growing their confidence.”
Troia, Vint's daughter, said he cared deeply for people, was compassionate and served as a second father to many. He coached his children in baseball and basketball, and after they were grown he would coach the children of family friends.
“His favorite thing was to be able to take a player at the beginning of a season — didn’t matter what sport it was — and take them from somebody who was nothing and watch them make their first basket or watch them hit their first double," said his son, Tim Vint of Riverside, California. “He thrived on that.”
Vint was a league bowler for many years and rolled two 300 games. He also played golf and built clubs on the side.
A lover of dogs, particularly Labradors, Vint wrote a book in 2011, "Walking With Dog," that showed what dogs can teach their owners about the ways of God. A devout Baptist, Vint taught Sunday school, was a greeter at his church and hosted a men's Bible study each week.
Vint had heart bypass surgery last year and was ahead of schedule with his rehabilitation because he wanted to get back to the golf course. He always walked rather than ride a cart, playing two or three rounds each week before he became ill in July.
In addition to his daughter and son, he is survived by Georgie, his wife of 51 years, three brothers and one sister, and four grandchildren. Services were pending.