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OPENING THE VAULT

by Nicholas Daoust ’21, #XBCorps

The Toof Brothers Release Football Films from the 90s

With the help of two alumni, Xaverian Brothers High School is “opening the vault” of athletic content from a time gone by. Brothers William “Shaun” Toof ’98 (who now goes by stage name Shaun Soho) and James “Bo” Toof ’00, both involved with Xaverian football during their time as students, have recently taken up the task of publishing their own library of archived football footage on Facebook. It’s from the seasons in the mid- to late-90s, an era of Hawks football that gave rise to talent who found incredible success at the college and professional levels—thus, the Toof brothers’ tapes are not only sentimental and nostalgic artifacts, but also important pieces of history for Xaverian athletics. Shaun, now the frontman of rock band “Crash Midnight,” and Bo, a streaming specialist and senior video producer at Partners Healthcare, explain the project and elaborate on their time at Xaverian in an interview anticipating the release of their exclusive footage. 

You have taken on the joint effort of re-releasing an archive of football game tapes from Xaverian. What years do these tapes cover? How did you initially become involved in this work as students here, and why was it of interest to you?

SHAUN: The years we've got covered are pretty much our playing years—1995 season through 1999. To be completely honest, I didn't even remember that I made the 1996 Highlight until I was going through the tapes to get them ready, so I'm not entirely sure where the inspiration to do that first year came from other than having access to the AVID editing software at our father's office (Bo and Shaun’s father was the head ski coach at Boston College). The 1997 Highlight, however, was definitely more a labor of love coming off a season where I believe something like 20 out of the starting 22 positions were filled by our senior class. We rolled through an incredible undefeated season and had it come crashing to the ground by a single point at one of the highest attended Thanksgiving Day games in Xaverian and St. John's Prep history. I know a lot of my classmates will agree that we'd poured 4 years of our high school football lives into that season and, I think, even as a high school senior, I had some sense back then of how much that season might mean to all of us down the line.

BO: I had taken over in ’98 and ’99 years at least partially because of how much our teammates had loved the previous years. It made helping my teammates put together their own recruiting packages for colleges a lot easier too since we already had all of the highlights in the editing system.

What brought you back to this project now, more than 20 years after graduation?

SHAUN: I've kept in touch with a bunch of the guys over the years, having played with a few of them in college as well. They'd ask from time to time if I still had the highlight and season tapes kicking around and I'd just never had the time to dig them up. One of the silver linings, I guess, of this past year is there's been more time to take care of some things that had been sitting on the back burner and I finally was able to do a good search and find everything to get it digitized. 

BO: Just remembering that we had the tapes lying around while moving stuff around and talking to Shaun and our teammates, we realized that a lot of people wanted to see these again but might not have saved their old copies from 20 years ago.

Given that these tapes were taken upwards of two decades now, what technology and equipment was used to put together recordings of these games? How did you have access to these recording and editing resources?

SHAUN: This stuff was all back on VHS tape. That would require playing the VHS tapes into a computer so that they could be edited. From there it was somewhat similar to how you edit today except everything would take way, way longer to do. Any sort of edits would chug along from minutes to hours to render before you could even see if you liked what you'd done. Luckily, we did have access to my father's Avid editing software at Boston College, so we were working with some of the best programs available at the time.

BO: It is pretty wild to see how dated all of this looks since it didn’t feel that way at the time. It was cutting edge technology that we as students had access to, and I don’t know if any other programs did. I actually had the opportunity to go check out the Avid Studios in Waltham a number of times where they were working on the graphics for movies like Titanic or CNN’s live broadcast graphics. It was a great opportunity.

Through the ’90s and ’00s, Xaverian produced several football players—Matt ’93 and Tim Hasselbeck ’96, Greg Comella ’93, Derrick Knight ’99, to name a few.—who later garnered athletic success at the college and professional levels. Rewatching your Xaverian tapes, do you find the eventual future acclaim of these athletes to be evident or identifiable? What does it feel like to know you have some of the earliest footage of players who would go on to become big names in the sport?

SHAUN: Well, Matty Hass was pretty much the reason I decided to go to Xaverian in the first place. He was playing for Boston College while I was still a kid and working as a ball boy for BC Football. There wasn't much of a football team in my hometown so he really influenced me to take a look at Xaverian and encouraged me to go there since his brother Tim was already there.  I'd end up playing with both Tim and Derrick along with a bunch of others at both Xaverian and Boston College afterwards. It's pretty cool seeing all of us in these tapes from that moment in time during high school and then looking at where people ended up.

BO: I had played Pop Warner football with three of our four 1999 captains—Nathanael Hasselbeck, Peter Shean and Greg Hamilton, before going to Xaverian, and it was obvious that these guys had so much talent. Looking back at the highlights, I mean, they look like anything you would see on an NFL Draft Day package. Depending on the opponent, it looks like they’re playing in slow motion.

What are your favorite moments in the video archive? Did any of the footage make you sentimental or nostalgic?

SHAUN: Our 1997 Senior Highlight really held a lot of memories for me. Going back and watching some of the televised games brought back even more memories too. I was surprised how vividly I remembered things that happened in those games as I was watching and some of the things the other guys have reminded me of as we've caught up after watching these tapes. 

BO: After the graphics, the second thing I noticed were the number of songs I haven’t listened to in years! Really, really ’90s stuff. It brought me back to when the guys would bring in CDs to play and argue over what the senior song was going to be, just really cool memories that I haven’t thought about in years.

How can the Xaverian community access these tapes?

SHAUN: You can join the Xaverian Brothers Football Media Archive Facebook group. It has been expanding as we've had more and more people reach out and dig up old tapes. 

Did this video project have any impact on your lives personally and/or professionally? Has rereleasing the videos prompted either of you to reconnect or reach out to former high school teammates? 

SHAUN: I've been catching up a lot with my old teammates as we were collecting all the video and after releasing it. It's been great to hear more about what they've been up to—I think we all tend to get caught up in our own lives sometimes and don't catch up as often as we'd like. It's been really nice to hear how happy the guys have been to be able to show this stuff to their kids now, too. I think that's really meant a lot to them. Hopefully, this might encourage guys from other years to hunt down their highlight tapes or anything they have kicking around to add to the stuff and keep building it up.

BO: Absolutely, I’m in the video broadcast/streaming world today and still using some of the skills and technology, only in the medical field for Mass General Brigham/Harvard Medical. For me professionally this was as good as any high school internship could have been. And while I’m still in touch with a good many of my old teammates, this has really helped me reconnect with teammates in other classes or friends I’d fallen out of touch with.

How would you describe your Xaverian experience, during your time as students and as alumni? What does Xaverian mean to you?

SHAUN: It's funny how it can seem both like a lifetime ago and, watching these videos, like practically no time has passed at all. Going to Xaverian was one of the best and most important choices I made in my life and the lifelong friendships we still have after all these years is something pretty special. Everyone was really tight our senior year and this project has brought a lot of that back—even to where a bunch of us are now talking about doing a big trip out to Las Vegas (where I live now) to get together once everything opens back up again.

BO: Going to Xaverian was easily the best decision I could have made, I can’t even imagine what I would be doing now if I hadn’t had the opportunities that Xaverian provided. I think there’s an uncommon bond between Xaverian and its alumni which this project has really helped appreciate in a new way.
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A private, Catholic, college preparatory day school for boys in grades 7-12. The Boston area prep school offers a rigorous academic curriculum, a well-developed campus ministry program focused on faith, character, and leadership, and a proud athletic tradition featuring competitive Division 1 high school athletics in the Catholic Conference.