From Devil to doctor

Aug. 02, 2014 @ 07:53 PM

Laken Tomlinson spent his summer sweating through workouts with his Duke teammates, taking part in players-only self practices as they prepare to build on one of the school’s most successful football seasons.

That work is expected to have Tomlinson in an NFL training camp next summer, financially secure with a multi-million dollar contract signed.

At the same time this summer, Tomlinson has kept other work – what will be his life’s work – in mind as well.

When the Duke all-ACC offensive lineman wasn’t working on football over the past two months, he was alongside neurosurgeon Dr. Carlos Bagley at Duke University Hospital.

He observed Bagley’s work with patients from pre-operative meetings to surgeries to post-operative recovery.

When football is done, or perhaps before that, Tomlinson plans on doing the same thing as a doctor.

“I have aspirations for being a doctor one day,” said Tomlinson, a three-time Academic All-ACC pick for Duke. “Hopefully in neurology or neuroscience. It’s been an awesome experience shadowing Dr. Bagley and I definitely enjoyed being there with him and seeing all the stuff that he is doing.”

Bagley knows what Tomlinson is attempting. He played linebacker for the Blue Devils from 1992-95 before attending medical school at Duke.

Unlike Bagley, though, Tomlinson’s football career will extend beyond Duke. He’s projected as one of the top offensive guards for the 2015 NFL Draft and could be first-round pick.

“He has everything in the right place,” Bagley said. “It’s going to be awesome to watch his career, not only professionally on the football side but also professionally on the medical side to watch that all play out. I think he’s going to be able to do great things on both sides.”

It’s a long way from Westmoreland, Jamaica, the impoverished community where Tomlinson spent his early years. When he was 9, he and his mother relocated to Chicago while his father remained in Jamaica.

Having only known cricket and soccer as far as sports, he transitioned to football at the urging of an uncle as a middle-school student. As he was growing into what is now a 6-foot-3, 320-pound frame, he flourished along the interior line.

While starring on the field in high school at Chicago’s Lane Tech, Tomlinson also excelled in the classroom. He turned down scholarship offers from Big Ten schools Northwestern, Ohio State and Illinois to come to Duke.

“It speaks to him getting the big picture,” Bagley said. “You can be a football player anywhere. The opportunities that are presented to you at Duke, I think, are unique. There are not a lot of places that are like that, where you have the ability to play in DI Football Bowl Subdivision, playing against the best of the best in the country. But they also to be able to compete on an academic level with anyone.”

The idea of studying medicine emerged out of tragedy for Tomlinson. The last time he returned to Jamaica was as a high school sophomore when his grandfather died from internal bleeding from stomach ulcers.

Having spent a few years in the United States by then, Tomlinson said he knew that Jamaican doctors simply couldn’t offer a high level of care.

“I thought about all the things that would have happened had he been in the States versus Jamaica,” Tomlinson said. “I just made up my mind that I want to do something about. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to prevent things like that from happening. If my grandpa lived here, he’d likely be alive to see me go to college. I’m sorry to say that he is not and I miss him. I miss him a lot.”

Bagley said that kind of motivation can be powerful when tackling something as daunting as medical school.

“It gives you a purpose rather than doing something because it’s a job,” Bagley said. There is a mission to it.”

Tomlinson said he talks to his father in Jamaica every other week or so. His extended family there watches his games via the Internet.

A year from now they’ll likely be watching him play in the NFL. But that’s only the start of what Tomlinson plans to accomplish, something that’s a rarity among professional athletes.

“It’s not that he wants to be (a doctor), but that he is serious about it,” Bagley said. “It’s one thing to say it and talk the game. But it’s another thing to go out and do it. To put the effort not only on the practice field and in the weight room, but also when you are over in biochem or in the chemistry lab, putting the same sort of effort in there. It’s hard. The path of least resistance is always to say that it’s too hard and to give up and let me just fade back into the background and be average just like anyone else. It takes a lot of self-discipline.

“There’s no question about him being able to do it now that he’s set his mind toward that.”

 

 

Offensive lineman' aspires to make it in NFL and as neurosurgeon
By STEVE WISEMAN
swiseman@heraldsun.com; 919-419-6674
DURHAM – Laken Tomlinson spent his summer sweating through workouts with his Duke teammates, taking part in players-only self practices as they prepare to build on one of the school’s most successful football seasons.
That work is expected to have Tomlinson in an NFL training camp next summer, financially secure with a multi-million dollar contract signed.
At the same time this summer, Tomlinson has kept other work – what will be his life’s work – in mind as well.
When the Duke all-ACC offensive lineman wasn’t working on football over the past two months, he was alongside neurosurgeon Dr. Carlos Bagley at Duke University Hospital.
He observed Bagley’s work with patients from pre-operative meetings to surgeries to post-operative recovery.
When football is done, or perhaps before that, Tomlinson plans on doing the same thing as a doctor.
“I have aspirations for being a doctor one day,” said Tomlinson, a three-time Academic All-ACC pick for Duke. “Hopefully in neurology or neuroscience. It’s been an awesome experience shadowing Dr. Bagley and I definitely enjoyed being there with him and seeing all the stuff that he is doing.”
Bagley knows what Tomlinson is attempting. He played linebacker for the Blue Devils from 1992-95 before attending medical school at Duke.
Unlike Bagley, though, Tomlinson’s football career will extend beyond Duke. He’s projected as one of the top offensive guards for the 2015 NFL Draft and could be first-round pick.
“He has everything in the right place,” Bagley said. “It’s going to be awesome to watch his career, not only professionally on the football side but also professionally on the medical side to watch that all play out. I think he’s going to be able to do great things on both sides.”
It’s a long way from Westmoreland, Jamaica, the impoverished community where Tomlinson spent his early years. When he was 9, he and his mother relocated to Chicago while his father remained in Jamaica.
Having only known cricket and soccer as far as sports, he transitioned to football at the urging of an uncle as a middle-school student. As he was growing into what is now a 6-foot-3, 320-pound frame, he flourished along the interior line.
While starring on the field in high school at Chicago’s Lane Tech, Tomlinson also excelled in the classroom. He turned down scholarship offers from Big Ten schools Northwestern, Ohio State and Illinois to come to Duke.
“It speaks to him getting the big picture,” Bagley said. “You can be a football player anywhere. The opportunities that are presented to you at Duke, I think, are unique. There are not a lot of places that are like that, where you have the ability to play in DI Football Bowl Subdivision, playing against the best of the best in the country. But they also to be able to compete on an academic level with anyone.”
The idea of studying medicine emerged out of tragedy for Tomlinson. The last time he returned to Jamaica was as a high school sophomore when his grandfather died from internal bleeding from stomach ulcers.
Having spent a few years in the United States by then, Tomlinson said he knew that Jamaican doctors simply couldn’t offer a high level of care.
“I thought about all the things that would have happened had he been in the States versus Jamaica,” Tomlinson said. “I just made up my mind that I want to do something about. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to prevent things like that from happening. If my grandpa lived here, he’d likely be alive to see me go to college. I’m sorry to say that he is not and I miss him. I miss him a lot.”
Bagley said that kind of motivation can be powerful when tackling something as daunting as medical school.
“It gives you a purpose rather than doing something because it’s a job,” Bagley said. There is a mission to it.”
Tomlinson said he talks to his father in Jamaica every other week or so. His extended family there watches his games via the Internet.
A year from now they’ll likely be watching him play in the NFL. But that’s only the start of what Tomlinson plans to accomplish, something that’s a rarity among professional athletes.
“It’s not that he wants to be (a doctor), but that he is serious about it,” Bagley said. “It’s one thing to say it and talk the game. But it’s another thing to go out and do it. To put the effort not only on the practice field and in the weight room, but also when you are over in biochem or in the chemistry lab, putting the same sort of effort in there. It’s hard. The path of least resistance is always to say that it’s too hard and to give up and let me just fade back into the background and be average just like anyone else. It takes a lot of self-discipline.
“There’s no question about him being able to do it now that he’s set his mind toward that.”