Former Gryphon Thomas Dimitroff Jr. is now a Hall of Famer.“I keep using the phrase heartwarming,” he said Wednesday night shortly before the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony at the 30th annual Kiwanis Club of Guelph’s Sports Celebrity Dinner at the Italian Canadian Club.“When I heard that I was going to be inducted, I first thought of my father because I know how important the city of Guelph was to him. Being recognized in a city around so many great people that I feel so strongly about and I will for the rest of my life means a great deal for me. I’ve fortunately been recognized in other areas, but not in a hall of fame. This is the first time I’ve been recognized in a hall of fame and I’m very proud.”While Dimitroff Jr. played with the Gryphons as a defensive back from 1985 to 1990, winning the Wildman Trophy in 1990, he first stepped on the Alumni Stadium field when his father, Tom Sr., was head coach of the Gryphons from 1979 to 1983.“I was back and forth between Centennial (CVI) where I’d be playing during the day and then I’d sneak over onto the practice fields where my dad was coaching during the evenings,” the 49-year-old recalled. "I’d try to hide from him around the players and the different big parts of the offensive and defensive lines so he wouldn’t see me because I should’ve been at home doing homework, but instead I’m around his practice fields.“I remember him storming along the sidelines down at me and I’m thinking ‘Oh my god, I think he sees me,’ and sure enough, he’d be on his way beat for me. ‘Why aren’t you at home doing homework? We need you to keep your grades up.’ I have some really fond memories of going between Centennial and the University of Guelph and the great friends and contacts I’ve made over the years. It warms my heart to think of it now.”Now general manager of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, Dimitroff Jr. has fond memories of his days with the Gryphons.“My memories there are just the heart and soul I put into that program when I was younger,” he said. "Before even going there, I’d work for my dad when he was the coach there, on the sidelines as a ball boy, I’d be doing laundry, I’d be picking up tape. That merged into me becoming a player and playing there and spending five years at the University of Guelph and getting a great education and learning what it was to be an adult.“Once again that came through the University of Guelph and the city of Guelph and I will forever remember my formative years, not only at high school but at the University of Guelph where I remember what it was to truly put my heart and soul into a sport that I truly believed was what I was going to do for the rest of my life.”Although the Gryphons are long in his past, he talks often to close friends from his playing days.“I randomly keep in touch with a lot of them and there’s probably a handful of them that I see regularly, maybe 10 that I see regularly,” he said. “During the season they may come down for a game or we may just talk on the phone. We have a tight bond. It might not always be there, but I am so welcome to spend time with them and they with me and those are the kind of things that will never fade because it’s such a firmly engrained time in our minds with all the growing we were doing physically and mentally.”While Dimitroff Jr. has been involved in football since his days with the Gryphons, he has found that his studies at the university have also paid off.“I was an economics and history major,” he said. “I really enjoyed history, quite honestly. I remember a couple of my close friends saying ‘What are you going to do, make a lot of money being a history professor?’ And I remember saying ‘No, I think things are going to work out and I think the history is going to serve me well wherever I decide to go.’ If I had decided to get into law school or something like that, I thought it would serve me well. I always enjoyed the historical side of my learning because it allowed me to not only research, which is a very important part of my life now, but also express myself. I thought that was something that I learned much more through my history interestingly enough than it was through my economics study.”His economics studies have certainly helped, too.“With my focus on the business aspects of the sport, it’s really interesting to be able to work on the building of the team through roster management, but also work on the salary cap side which I’ve learned a great deal since being in the NFL,” he said. “I’ve got nine years and it schools you very quickly when you’ve got a billionaire two times over plus like (Falcons’ owner) Arthur Blank looking at you wondering if (quarterback) Matt Ryan is truly worth $105 million. I think that quickly matures you as a businessman.”Born in Barberton, Ohio, just outside of Akron, in 1966, Dimitroff Jr. moved to Canada at age seven when his father became the quarterbacks coach of the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders.“I learned so much here and then when I got out in the sports world, I was so amazed by how intense and focused it was,” Dimitroff Jr. said." I realized that was what real life was all about, making sure you could make some tough decisions."Dimitroff Jr. was inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame in the builders category. Also included the hall’s Class of 2016 was former Gryphon rugby player Maria Gallo in the athlete category.