I can proudly say that I have been to Jamaica, man.
Jamaica is a beautiful green mountainous island country lying in the middle of the Caribbean. The number one industry of Jamaica is tourism, so I am obviously not the only one that has traveled to Jamaica, man.
My wife and I visited Montego Bay, Jamaica on our honeymoon and we had
a blast. That was long ago and seemingly a lifetime away, but I have heard it’s pretty much the same now as it was then.
Very green and mountainous country with beautiful beaches, just make sure when you go to get the all inclusive package. When you do go, be sure to stay between the walls of your resort. If you leave, you will be hit up with offers to buy all sorts of things, but mostly weed. They also want to braid the ladies hair and all other sorts of scams.
The worst thing is the poverty. When I go to an area, or a country, I like to see how the people live and see the things away from the tourists. We hired a taxi driver to drive us up into the mountains and show us around.
The country itself is stunning, but the destitution of the people away from the sightseers, and party people, was disheartening.
We went to markets and tried to barter, but it was against my beliefs to try and low ball a person that has so little so I mostly paid full price.
The weather is nearly perfect in Jamaica and the beaches are great. I love the large blue mountains in the background, and the greenery. The music is great as is the food and it’s hard to beat the rum and the beer.
Then, there’s Bob Marley and the music. I love Reggae personally, and every night there were bands playing the local music.
Of all the people I saw walking around in the country of Jamaica, I never did see anyone like Laken Tomlinson, or even close.
I was briefly in Chicago once. I want to go back and see more of the sights, but I have a lot of other destinations also on my bucket list.
I have met many people from there and worked with a few as well. They all pretty much say the same things. The city is beautiful, but it has earned the name of the Windy City and the winters are brutal.
Can you imagine a 10 year old kid named Laken Tomlinson moving with his entire family from the warm climate of a tropical paradise like Jamaica to the huge metropolitan area known as Chicago? In reality, he went from one poverty stricken area to another. We aren’t talking about the rich suburbs like Lake Forest, to the North of Chicago here, we are talking about the projects.
But, like so many others, the lure of the American dream must have brought them to the city to provide their children a better life.
Laken Tomlinson is a great big man, and he was also a great big kid. When his high school football coach, Rich Rio, first laid eyes on the Middle School aged Tomlinson and his mother, the coach thought that he was a lost college guy, looking for some campus nearby.
Rich Rio said when he found out that Tomlinson was in 8th grade, there was no way that Tomlinson was not playing football.
In spite of his huge size, playing football for the first time was no easy task for Tomlinson. He really thought football was soccer like it is for most of the world and he had no idea what he was doing. They called him ‘Fluffy’ for a while and Tomlinson hated that name so much that he was determined to do whatever it took to not be called Fluffy.
This is when the Laken Tomlinson story starts to look a little bit like the Blind Side story, and Michael Oher.
Tomlinson was not only a huge kid, but he was an extremely bright young man and extremely focused which is so rare for his age at the time.
His Principal, Maurice Harvey, recommended Tomlinson for a youth mentorship program.
Bob Sperling was a lawyer from the Chicago suburbs who was involved with Youth Guidance of Chicago which was formed to help inner city kids. Long story, but Sperling got hooked up with Laken Tomlinson.
Sperling was a partner in a downtown law firm and he was a trustee at the University of Illinois. He took Tomlinson under his wing and helped him become a man in mind and in spirit as well as he already was physically.
The first time Tomlinson heard a Southern accent in his entire life was when he met Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe while he was being recruited. Cutcliffe was Peyton Manning’s Offensive Coordinator at Tennessee and then he was Eli Manning’s head coach at Ole Miss. After being fired at Ole Miss, Cutcliffe became the head man at Duke and led them to the ACC Coastal Division Championship in 2013. Michael Oher of the Blind Side, incidentally, played at Ole Miss.
This is where the comparison with the Blind Side is slightly different. His mentor became pretty much his father during all of this process and his mentor was a big Illinois guy.
Bob Sperling apparently made it very clear from the beginning that the college choice that Tomlinson would make would be his own decision and not Sperling’s. At the time, Illinois had Ron Zook as it’s head coach.
If you don’t know about Ron Zook, you don’t know what kind of recruiter that he actually is. He was head coach at Florida and recruited the talent that Urban Meyer used there to win his first national championship.
Say whatever you like about Zook’s coaching abilities and I doubt I will argue, but Zook is an outstanding recruiter and one of the best out there, if not the very best.
Zook wanted Laken Tomlinson at Illinois which was hard to walk away from, and then there was the Sperling advantage for the Illinois football program.
But, the decision was in Laken Tomlinson’s hands and he chose the Duke Blue Devils and David Cutcliffe in what had to be a touch decision for Bob Sperling.
In the Blind Side, the Tuohy family from Memphis, Tennessee took in Michael Oher. The Tuohy family were Ole Miss grads and Michael Oher wound up at Ole Miss. It looked suspicious and supposedly the NCAA investigated and found nothing illegal.
Hugh Freeze was Oher’s high school football coach and would soon get a college job probably due to the attention received from the incredible Blind Side story. Nothing wrong with that, as every coach probably wants to move up the ranks and it’s hard to say anything negative about that.
As written earlier, Tomlinson was always a very focused young man. As a youngster, he always loved his grandfather, Ivan Wilson. The grandfather came first to the United States to help pave way for the rest of the family.
Then, the grandfather went back to Jamaica on vacation and he had a heart attack and died. Laken Tomlinson was a sophomore in high school and he felt as if his grandfather had been in the States he could have survived with proper care.
Regardless of what dramatic television shows like Gray’s Anatomy would have us believe, there are actually very few African-American Doctors. There are very few in Jamaica and the health system is pathetic.
From that experience, Laken Tomlinson decided he wanted to be a doctor so that he could make a difference. It was too late to save his grandfather, Ivan Wilson, but Tomlinson could help others.
From everything we have seen out of Tomlinson, there’s no reason to believe he won’t become a doctor.
Tomlinson has used up his eligibility at Duke. He has earned Some All American honors and All Conference in leading his team to a Coastal championship. This Spring, he is going to be getting ready for the NFL draft in which he is expected to be one of the top 4 Offensive Guards taken. Offensive Guards are usually taken beneath an Offensive Tackle in the draft and are a little down the list of team needs, so he probably shouldn’t expect to go in the 1st round.
But, while he is getting ready for NFL combines and tests, he will also be getting ready to take his Medical College Admission Test, otherwise known as the MCAT.
From the beautiful green island of Jamaica that gave us Bob Marley, we also received Laken Tomlinson. He went from a impoverished beginning in the dirt streets of Jamaica to the mean streets of Chicago and never lost his focus. From there, it was off to Duke University and on to the NFL or maybe even medical school.
Laken Tomlinson has the determination and the drive to accomplish whatever crosses his mind. He was gifted with an NFL Offensive Lineman’s body and the brains, but a lot of people have those things and never accomplish much of anything. They are not Laken Tomlinson.
Look for Laken Tomlinson at an NFL team near you, or even look for a Dr Tomlinson at a local hospital.
I have no doubt in my mind that he will accomplish both.