Dec 15, 2015 10:54AM
By Halle Mason
Most people hear the name “Curtis Tomasevicz” and think of a former Nebraska football player. Some know him as an Olympic gold medalist. Still others as a professor of engineering.
To say that he dabbles in a bit of everything is clearly an understatement. Growing up in the hamlet of Shelby, Nebraska (pop. 714), Tomasevicz would go on to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His overachieving attitude was first evidenced in being an uninvited walk-on who stuck with the Huskers. He spent his first two seasons as a running back before moving to linebacker.
Tomasevicz graduated holding a bachelor and master’s degree in electrical engineering with a minor in astronomy. He’s currently completing his Ph.D. while teaching an introduction to engineering course as well as another on energy science.
“I enjoy being a student and learning,” he says with a shrug. “This provides me the resources to do that.”
More than anything, he wants his students to come away from his class having learned something, whether that something is a lesson in physics, sports, or life in general.
“On paper, it’s the perfect job,” he adds. “It’s teaching. It’s engineering. It’s physics. It’s sports. I don’t know if I could find a better combination of everything I like.”
Academia may be his turf today, but it hasn’t always been that way.
In the summer of 2004 a friend convinced Tomasevicz to train for bobsledding. Within two short years he was on his way to Italy and the 2006 Olympics.
“I learned a new sport when I had just turned 24 years old,” he says of his most unlikely introduction to ice and gravity. “It was pretty humbling. How do I run on ice?”
Any Husker football player is an instant hometown hero, but Shelby rallied with gusto behind Tomasevicz’s dream when 690 people came together to raise $25,000 for his training.
His dedication paid off in gold in the four-man bobsled at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. He retired from the sport just last year.
Just like in football, Tomasevicz explains that, “Bobsledding can be a violent sport. You get hit in the head a lot. But that adrenaline rush…that fear…that danger…is kind of what makes it cool, too.”
A little more than 10 years later, his time as a bobsledder is over, but Tomasevicz continues to share his experience and inspiration. In just the first year after winning his gold medal, he delivered 110 motivational speeches.
The sport has even found a way into his lesson plan. Tomasevicz has hosted Bob Cuneo, bobsled engineer for Team USA, in a Skype-based lecture that delved into the science behind bobsled design.
Tomasevicz still hits the speaking circuit, spreading his story and motivating his audiences by relating how a guy from small-town Nebraska ended up as an Olympic gold medalist in bobsledding. The experience was foreign, daunting, humbling, and more than anything else, life-changing. Tomasevicz has demonstrated that fear—in sports, the classroom, and in life—cannot rule your emotions.
“That’s how you go through life,” he explains, “taking on fear and never letting those empty holes fill your life.”