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BFS Athlete of the Year
By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Spring 2003
“I have done a lot of interviews in my career of writing articles for the BFS Journal and only a handful of athletes at any level had perfect technique on every phase of strength and conditioning. Tom Busch is one of those athletes.”
- Dr. Greg Shepard
Tom Busch of Park High School in Minnesota is our 2002-2003 Bigger Faster Stronger Athlete of the Year. He becomes the 23rd recipient of our most prestigious award. Tom is a true Eleven in every way!
Tom’s selection was based on a number of factors: athletic achievements, character, leadership and the ability to overcome obstacles and to put life into its proper perspective. Tom has proved himself in every one of these criteria and is most deserving of this award.
Coach Doug Ekmark, head football coach at Park High School and a BFS Clinician, told me that he had a prime candidate for our national BFS Athlete of the Year award. “His name is Tom Busch,” said Coach Ekmark, “and he is a true Eleven.” As I began to learn about Tom, it soon became evident that he was indeed a top candidate and would be in the same league as our past award winners.
Tom has been playing middle linebacker since he was in the third grade. He tried other sports but in high school concentrated on football and training. Tom began training with his dad and older brother at an early age by doing pushups and sit-ups. However, by his ninth-grade year he became very serious about the BFS Program under Coach Ekmark’s direction. I have done a lot of interviews in my career of writing articles for the BFS magazine and only a handful of athletes at any level had perfect technique in every phase of strength and conditioning. Tom Busch is one of those athletes, and that is a credit to his coaches and to Tom for concentrating so fully on the smallest detail.
As you can see (chart right), Tom’s strength is extraordinary. His lifts during his 11th-grade year just before his senior year of football could match most starting Division I linebackers in college. The 350-pound power clean was done from the floor and should not be confused with the hang clean, which is easier for most athletes. Tom was a three-time All-Conference and a two-time All-Metro (Minneapolis) player. In addition, he was a two-time Conference Defensive MVP and a two-time All-State linebacker. Tom recorded a prodigious 414 tackles throughout his high school career.
All these accomplishments, plus Tom’s uncommon strength, caught the eye of many Division I schools. Tom decided early on to accept an offer from the University of Iowa. “I have always wanted to play on Saturdays—that’s what drives me,” says Tom. “I love the game and I do sometimes dream about playing on Sundays. My parents support me and my younger brother inspires me every day.”
Tom says that he has missed a workout only once in the last four years. “I hated it,” said Tom. “It was in the summer on a family vacation. My mom would not let me out of it. To be successful you have to be consistent.” However, upon probing further, Tom ran, stretched and did ab work on that time that he “missed.” Now you can begin to see why Tom is a true Eleven and our pick for national honors.
Tom devoted about eight hours per week to his training. He did the BFS 1-2-3-4 Stretching Program twice per day all four years. Tom not only trains at school but he also does additional work at home and at a fitness club. Said Tom, “I want to be intense but I am also conscious of overtraining. I think I have a very good feel for my body.”
We had quite a discussion on overtraining and what to do after you have achieved the BFS All-American Standards. Tom was well aware of the BFS philosophy because of Coach Ekmark. Essentially the idea is that the stronger you get, the less important extra strength becomes. Tom agrees there is a point of no return when it comes to athletic strength. In other words, with a power clean from the floor of 350 pounds, an 800 box squat, a 505 deep parallel squat and a 405 bench press, Tom is really strong enough to handle business at the Division I level. A 10 percent increase in strength in the next three to four years would be plenty. What Tom should concentrate on is his speed, quickness and linebacker savvy. And that is exactly what Tom has been doing. His 40 went from a 4.65 to a 4.47 and his vertical jump from 32 inches to 34 inches. Tom knows that the difference in being an effective linebacker that he could make by going from a 350 power clean to 380 is not nearly as good as going from 4.65 to 4.47 in the forty. Plus, the strain on the body and chance of injury is always something to consider at that level of strength.
Tom believes there is no substitute for hard work. “You have to set goals every day,” Tom advises. “There are a lot of people with talent, but to rise above the pack you need to be disciplined and consistent. Coach Ekmark has inspired me to be thankful and not take things for granted. I hope and pray I will make the most of life. My parents have helped me to stay humble and to handle adversity.”
As for drugs and alcohol, Tom is totally against them for teens and athletes. It was a wonderful thing for Tom to be able to look me straight in the eye and declare in all truthfulness that he had never had one drop of alcohol or gone near an illegal drug. “Taking drugs and drinking alcohol are not good decisions,” confirms Tom. “Not even a little bit. If you do something illegal long enough, you are going to get caught. I will never do it. I want to surround myself with good people and, thankfully, I have been in a good environment.”
Whenever an athlete like Tom has extraordinary strength, the question of steroids invariably comes up. “Steroids have never been an option,” says Tom. “I never even think about it. If you think you need steroids, you are thinking and training wrong. Nothing could ever make me take steroids.”
“The Be An Eleven concept is important here at Park High School . . . to be a great individual in all areas like athletics, school, family and community,” says Tom. “To me, it is going the extra step to stand out. Spiritual values are also important.” It also became known to me that Tom prays every day.
Tom tries to be an example, and he is very much aware that the younger athletes and students are looking to him for leadership. He tells others, “Have fortitude. Have courage and strength of mind. Make your family important. If I couldn’t play football again, I would still consider myself fortunate.”
I want to mention two other amazing facts about Tom’s life. First, Tom does not have a driver’s license and does not drive. His driver education class conflicted with his workouts and the start of football practice, so he chose football.
Second, Tom was elected homecoming king last fall. At the presentation ceremony, he gave his crown to his little brother Joey, who has Down syndrome. Joey was all smiles and so was everyone else as he stood as king at the homecoming assembly.
Tom is a true Eleven, and we at BFS wish him well as he embarks on the next chapter of his life at the University of Iowa. Our thanks go to Tom, his parents and Coach Ekmark for this inspiring story.