- Associated Press - Sunday, February 8, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - At speeds topping 85 mph, Curt Tomasevicz found purpose in hurtling down a winding icy track, tucked into a heavy metal sled with three teammates.

One purpose was any athlete’s ultimate goal: a gold medal in the Olympic Games. Plus, the personal satisfaction of sharing success with a team and representing his hometown, state and country.

But when the final run down the track in Sochi, Russia, skidded to a halt, Tomasevicz admits his future held more uncertainty than the sport where catastrophe glides on four metal blades.

“When I got home in February, it was kind of a whirlwind,” he told the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1EGTGDB).

Physically, the 34-year-old believes he could compete in bobsled for another year or two. But keeping up with the kids at age 37 in the 2018 Winter Games could be tough, he said.

So, Tomasevicz sold his house in Colorado Springs and moved back in with his parents, Dennis and Amy, in Shelby - he calls that a humbling experience - before setting out on a public speaking tour.

“It was a lot of fun getting to go around to different organizations talking about bobsled,” he said. “You get to slip in a good message talking to students and kids and use bobsled in a good way.”

After giving a talk to University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineering students during the annual E-Week celebration, Tomasevicz bumped into his old teacher and mentor, David Jones, the College of Engineering’s associate dean for undergraduate programs.

Jones had an idea: Get Tomasevicz into a classroom.

“I knew Curt as a graduate student in his post-football days and I really got a sense of what type of student he was,” Jones said. “I knew his bobsled days were ending, and I really wanted to recruit him to come back and be a Ph.D. student.”

And he did. The retired bobsledder - he won a gold medal in Vancouver in 2010 - is leading a new pilot program mixing teaching, engineering and athletics being offered to new engineering students at UNL.

“Those three things are something I’ve always wanted to do,” Tomasevicz said.

Now, he’s teaching two sections of “Intro to Engineering: Athletics” to freshmen with an interest in engineering.

The course gives students an opportunity to explore one theme through various engineering lenses - mechanical, biological, electrical - before they commit to one particular discipline.

“Traditionally, we go out and talk to students about engineering and talk to them about the majors available,” Jones said. “We have been expecting freshmen or high school seniors to be sophisticated enough consumers to make decisions.”

Each department within the college had been offering different introductory courses, Jones added. This pilot program could eventually be expanded to study other topics like robotics, automotive or entrepreneurship in an effort to promote uniformity within the college and improve the first-year experience.

“Not only do I predict we will get students who choose a better-fitting engineering path, we’re going to do a better job preparing these freshmen,” Jones said.

Tomasevicz is hooked. Hailing from a family of teachers, the professor of practice position gives him an opportunity to use what he has learned as an engineer, an athlete and national speaker to help shape young minds.

Drawing on his experiences and contacts made as an Olympian, Tomasevicz said he hopes he can bring something new and different to the Engineering College. One guest lecturer he has scheduled to speak to students: Bob Cuneo, the U.S. Bobsled Team’s engineer.

Joining the faculty at UNL also gives him the chance to work toward a Ph.D. in engineering.

As an NU football player and bobsled “pusher,” Tomasevicz focused his strength and conditioning on explosive speed and power.

Studying the best ways to train future Husker athletes to maximize those skills is in the wheelhouse of the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab, Director Judy Burnfield said.

The lab in East Stadium studies techniques to enhance the performance, safety and long-term well-being of UNL’s student-athletes.

“Curt’s passion for sport, his acumen related to the demands placed on elite athletes and his passion for improving performance make him a natural match for the work we do in the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab,” Burnfield said.

Staring down the track in Sochi for the last time, Tomasevicz said he was in the moment, not thinking about what the future might hold or where he would end up when the sled came to a stop.

A year later, he’s glad to have landed at UNL.

“Being a part of the Big Red again is going to be pretty fun.”

___

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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