Laken Tomlinson: The Road Less Traveled


by Brad Holda

How far would you go to achieve success? Would you take shortcuts, keep to the middle of the road, or do all that is in your power to procure the best possible life for you in the future?  I’m a motivated, self-started individual, but I cannot honestly say I would have followed the path of the Lion’s first round draft pick, Laken Tomlinson. He wanted to be a great football player, but had maturity beyond his years to consider life after the game.

Tomlinson was born and raised into poverty in Jamaica. At one point, there were up to 15 people living in a small, brick, 2 bedroom house. You can envision the abject squalor Laken was a part of at an early age. It can be argued that this was the impetus behind his drive to become such a successful individual.  Eventually, Laken’s grandfather hatched a plan and financed him and his family members to move to Chicago, Illinois at the age of ten.  Having never before been off the island of Jamaica, Chicago was less than welcoming with its frigid temperatures and affinity for gusty winds. Luckily, the story gets better.
Tomlinson, with a documented high IQ, tested into Lane Tech Academy.  There was only one issue.  The nearest school was ten minutes away, but Laken opted to walk 20-30 minutes to take a bus for another hour just to get to Lane Tech. Mind you, this was a two way trip, everyday, freshman through senior year! Such perseverance should be applauded.
In his sophomore year, tragedy struck the Tomlinson family back in Jamaica, an event that shaped Laken’s decisions for his future. Tomlinson’s grandfather lost consciousness, and it was discovered that he was suffering from severe bleeding ulcers.  However, he was at the mercy of Jamaican healthcare, and therefore wasn’t afforded the quality medical treatment that would most likely have prolonged his life.  He died soon after he was taken into care. This event galvanized Laken to do something to change such an outcome in the future – he decided to go into medicine.
Tomlinson, unlike many other footballers before him, chose an extraordinary academic path for himself as it applies to college. He accepted a scholarship at Duke over the likes of Ohio State and Michigan State, solely based on Duke’s academic reputation.  At Duke, this young man did not just earn a degree – he earned two! He double majored in evolutionary anthropology and psychology.  If that’s not enough, he was also an All-ACC academic All-American each of the four years he attended Duke.
Categorically unique, with a maturation not often seen in those his age, he has decided to put medical school on the back-burner, and make his main focus football. He is currently practicing at left guard for the Lions, and per reports, is apparently make some big waves. He has been described by experts as a “people mover.” Only time will tell how this season shapes up for Tomlinson and Detroit.
This is, however, just one chapter of his life. After Laken’s time in the NFL, whether it be brief or a storied career, he plans to attend medical school. He already knows what type of doctor he wants to be;  he has stated to the media that he wants to be a neurosurgeon – one of the hardest jobs in medicine to pursue. After attaining his MD,  he plans to travel back to Jamaica and provide her residents with proper care and treatment. I think we can all agree that this young man has a bright future, both on and off the field.

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