From Now On, Everyone Will Know His Name
Randy York's N-sider
To "Respond to Randy" click on the link below and choose "Randy York's N-Sider" under "Area of Interest" on the new screen. Please include your name and city/town/state and share your thoughts on Olympic gold medalist Curtis Tomasevicz, a former Nebraska walk-on football player. Your comments may be published.
Curtis Tomasevicz was right. Kyle Vanden Bosch didn't know his name and only vaguely remembers him as a Nebraska Scout Team fullback. But that was a few weeks ago. Vanden Bosch, a second-round NFL draft choice and the only former Husker who played in the 2010 Pro Bowl, knows who Curtis Tomasevicz is now. And so do countless others who are Olympic Winter Games junkies like Kyle Vanden Bosch is.
Tomasevicz (pronounced Tom-eh-SEV-itch), considered the best American ever to push a sled, officially moved from the shadows of obscurity into the worldwide spotlight Saturday night when the Americans won their first gold medal in bobsledding in 62 years.
USA won the gold with a total time of 3:24.46. The Germans, led by four-time Olympic gold medalist driver Andre Lange, won the silver in 3:24.84, and the Canadians won the bronze in 3:24.85. During Sunday night's Winter Olympics Closing Ceremonies, NBC's Al Michaels, who called the "Miracle on Ice" USA hockey upset of the Soviets in 1980, compared the Americans' 2010 win in bobsledding to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.
Perhaps Nebraskans understood the historical impact of such a feat. During the second half of Saturday night's first-ever NU women's basketball sellout at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, John Bishop teased the crowd about announcing the result of bobsledding's signature event. Then he gave fans the good news, and the minute he said Curtis Tomasevicz, more than 13,500 fans roared their approval.
If it wasn't before, it seems clear now that wherever Curtis Tomasevicz goes in the great state of Nebraska, everyone will know his name.
Or at least they should, said Vanden Bosch, who has been following the Winter Games as closely as Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne and Husker Head Football Coach Bo Pelini, the state's two biggest household names.
Unfortunately, Vanden Bosch wasn't able to watch on TV Saturday because he and his family of five had obligations as guests of ESPN at Disney World.
But rest assured, one Nebraska legend has been keeping close tabs on another, especially after the former Husker football walk-on insisted that he drew his greatest inspiration from getting waylaid on a daily basis by Vanden Bosch and his fellow Blackshirts.
The Perfect Benchmark for Intensity and Effort
"Kyle is a big part of what I've been able to accomplish. He's the player I used as my model for consistent, aggressive, intensive effort every single day," Tomasevicz said. "He was the best. He went all out every time the ball was snapped.
"I was a small fullback (and later a letterwinner as a linebacker and special teams player), and Kyle would just flatten you, even steamroll you. He was the meanest son-of-a-gun I saw on the football field. He'd hit you as hard as he could, and the next time the ball was snapped, he'd do the same thing all over again," Tomasevicz recalled. "I never saw anyone go full-speed as often as he did."
That speed was always on overdrive in the classroom, too, as Vanden Bosch became a rare two-time First-Team Academic All-American at defensive end.
When Tomasevicz was finished with football and contemplating how to use his NU bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering (and a minor in astrophysics), former Nebraska track athlete Amanda Moreley approached him about becoming an Olympic bobsledder.
Tomasevicz analyzed the challenge from a variety of angles. When the light came on that it was realistic, but still an incredible long shot, he approached the opportunity of becoming an Olympian just like he did in preparing to defy the odds of being a walk-on.
"I decided Kyle Vanden Bosch was my benchmark," Tomasevicz said. "I was going to try and compete just like he did - every single minute of every single day."
Tomasevicz never missed a workout. He never gave anything less than his best. He admits that his bobsledding teammates drew inspiration from him just like he did from Blackshirts who "kicked the crap out of me almost every day."
Tomasevicz Now a Role Model for Vanden Bosch
Well guess what happened on Curtis Tomasevicz's journey to the top of the Olympic medal stand? One man's role model became another's.
And Vanden Bosch says it's time Husker Nation joins him and the rest of the sporting world in a spirited toast to the USA's history-making, record-breaking, gold medal-winning four-man "Night Train" team that consists of driver Steve Holcomb and crew members Steve Mesler, Justin Olsen and that impressionable kid from the tiny town of Shelby ... Curtis Tomasevicz.
"I bet Kyle Vanden Bosch doesn't even know who I am," Tomasevicz told me about a month ago.
Saturday, Vanden Bosch admitted he "couldn't put a name to the face" until his dad and sister each e-mailed him our online column that showed the NU Scout Team fullback who kept getting back up every time Vanden Bosch drove him into the ground.
"It was a great compliment," Vanden Bosch said, adding that scholarship players drew equal inspiration from walk-ons who would never give up. "I have great respect for what he's done in bobsledding just like he has great respect for what I've done in football. I'm proud of my career, and I'm proud that I learned to give it all I have in me at Nebraska."
Vanden Bosch says he learned that lesson from Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom and Chad Kelsay -- just like Tomasevicz learned it from Mike Brown, Carlos Polk and him.
"That's the way we did it - all out, every play, all over the field," Vanden Bosch said. "We were known for giving nothing but our best effort, and that tradition has every bit as much to do with walk-ons as it did for scholarship players."
Walk-Ons Deserve Equal Shares of Tradition
There is absolutely no doubt about something that's been swirling around Vanden Bosch's mind lately. "The reason Nebraska has been so good for so long in football is because of walk-ons just like Curt Tomasevicz," he said. "They came to work every day and did everything our coaches asked of them.
"They lifted weights as hard as anybody. They studied film as hard as anybody. They gave everything they had in them every day to be as good as they could possibly be," Vanden Bosch said. "I know Curt may not have played all that much, and I may not have remembered his name, but there's no question that he was just as important as anyone else, including me, in contributing to our tradition."
Tomasevicz was First-Team Academic All-Big 12. He made the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team. Plus, by persevering to the end when day-to-day experiences weren't always pleasant, Tomasevicz "learned what it takes to be the best in the world," Vanden Bosch said.
A little bit of that walk-on spirit enabled Vanden Bosch to make the Pro Bowl again in 2010. "You know," he said, "I didn't have 12½ sacks like I did when I made all-pro in 2005 or 12 sacks like I did when I made it in 2007," he said. "I only had four sacks last year, but two-thirds of the vote comes from coaches and fellow players, and they all come up to me and tell me how they like the way I play hard every play, and I tell them that I learned that at Nebraska."
Kyle Vanden Bosch thinks Curtis Tomasevicz learned the exact same lesson. "His impact on the program was different, but it was also the same," Vanden Bosch said. "He wasn't thinking about how he would celebrate a touchdown. He was always thinking about what he could do to help our team be successful."
That attitude, that work ethic, that spirit helped make Tomasevicz an Olympic champion.
"I don't have words to describe what he's done with the gifts he's been given and then developed," Vanden Bosch said. "In the NFL, I've played against the greatest football players in the world, and so many are there because they're just great athletes. The people I respect the most are athletes just like Curt. He's done it the old-fashioned way. He's earned his name."
Editor's note: The only other participant in the Winter Olympics with ties to Nebraska, Shelley-Ann Brown, claimed a silver inside the Canada-2 bobsled.
Voices from Husker Nation
Attending the past two Summer Olympic Games as a spectator makes me keenly aware of just how special it must be to stand on the podium as an Olympic Champion. Now, Curtis Tomasevicz is that special champion, and I would like to join all Americans and Nebraskans in congratulating him on this extraordinary accomplishment. Curt, you exemplify everything Nebraskans strive for, but I have one personal request for you: Come back in four years and let us cheer you and USA Bobsled Team 1 on as you defend the gold in 2014!!. Jerry Seiler, Hastings, Nebraska
Thanks for a great read. Too often Nebraska sports fans see only the athletes who are in the limelight all of the time. Too few fans realize that for every athlete that receives press coverage, dozens do not. Individual goals and aspirations should not necessarily be balanced against public perception or expectations. I congratulate all of the people who compete and don't win ... the first time. Like it says outside Memorial Stadium ..." in the deed the glory". Larry Robinson