On Super Bowl Sunday, Jamaican-born Laken Tomlinson will be the starting left guard for the 49ers. For Tomlinson, this is a dream come true. Born on the western coast in Savanna-la-mar, Jamaica on February 9, 1992, the only sport the 27 year-old NFL star knew was soccer, which he played barefooted with other kids in the neighborhood. Leaving his father behind, he migrated to the United States in 2003 at age 11 with his mother, Audrey Wilson and three siblings- Guhvane,Chelsea and Jehmaul- to Chicago, Illinois thanks to his maternal grandparents who immigrated from Jamaica to the United States in the 1980s to help pave the way for greater opportunities for his family.
Shortly after arriving to the U.S., the now 315-pound guard had gained 80 pounds during his first year in a new country as a result of different eating habits compared to his Jamaican upbringing. "I came to the United States, started eating American food, got a little big-boned and my mom was like, 'Look, you've got to get out of the house and do something,' " Tomlinson said. "And my uncle at the time, Chris Wilson, he told me, 'Why don't you play football?' "And at the time I thought he was talking about soccer, because in Jamaica we call soccer football, so I was like, 'Look at me, I'm 250 pounds, I can't play soccer anymore.' He was like, 'No, American football.' And I was just like, 'I'm not sure what that is, but I'll do it if it'll please my mom.' "
Tomlinson attended Lane Technical College Prep High School, where he was named the team MVP as a senior and helped lead his high school team to the 2008 Chicago Public League football championship. After graduating high school in 2011, Tomlinson attended Duke University where he completed a double major in psychology and evolutionary anthropology. During his four-year career as a Blue Devil, Tomlinson started in 52 games and took 3,962 snaps as an offensive guard. He was named an All-American in 2014 and named the men's 2015 ACC Athlete of the Year by winning the Anthony J. McKevlin Award.
Tomlinson’s professional football career started in 2015 when the Detroit Lions selected him in the first round of the NFL draft, the No. 28 pick. He was the first Duke player to be selected in the first round of an NFL Draft in more than two decades. In 2017, Tomlinson was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick and the following year, he signed a three-year, $18 million extension with $10 million guaranteed.
For Tomlinson, medicine will be his post-football career as he aspires to become a neurosurgeon and also build a hospital in Jamaica.
This Super Bowl will be one of great pride and humility for Tomlinson. "This entire process not only affects me but my family, people from Chicago, people from my school, but my people in Jamaica, too."
WATCH VIDEO: 49ers Laken Tomlinson stood out at Chicago's Lane Tech High School
Submitted by: Paulari L.