After having spoke on the phone with the director of recruiting, I knew that I had to leave Chicago. To be honest, I had mixed feelings about it. I had been spending more and more time with my high school ex and it seemed as if there could potentially be something there. Having been in college for two years (one and a half at an actual university), I had a better understanding of how relationships worked relative to being in high school. I had low expectations, but it was better than nothing. Let's be honest...I didn't exactly think I was the most attractive guy at 290+lbs. so I saw it as an investment in time, as awful as that sounds.
I consider myself more of a deep thinker, the more time I spend trying to think through an issue, the more rational I become. During my teenage years, I was the exact opposite, but being the big twenty year old I now was, I knew I had to go to Cincinnati. After all, I did spend the better part of three years trying to make it to this point.
Awaiting for an answer on when I would arrive, the recruiting director decided to give me a call, in which I replied, "I'll be there whenever you need me." That happened to be the next week. The idea of leaving Chicago for the unknown for a second time weighed heavy on me. I wasn't all that thrilled about leaving, but I would be closer to Chicago and living in a city. Two huge factors I found that West Virginia was lacking.
Although the major questions such as "Would I be offered a spot on the team?" and "Will Cincinnati treat me as the qualified prospect I think I am?" were answered, the then small things such as "Where will I live in Cincinnati?" and "What will my major be?" were not. I was so blind to everything that did not direct have an impact on being the best football player I could be that those questions never even crossed my mind. It was football or bust, and I would find a way to make things work.
As I left for UC I said my goodbyes to my friends, family, and high school ex. I remained hopefully as to our future, even though I knew in the back of my head that it was unlikely to lead anywhere. Regardless, I promised to keep in touch. I had spent too much time chasing the dead dream not to at least try and make it work.
I decided to leave the day of the first team meeting to begin summer camp, it was a Friday. I gave myself plenty of time to make it to the stadium on schedule. I remember I couldn't even muster up the will to eat breakfast that morning because my nerves were on edge. It was almost exactly one year since I was involved in any kind of organized football, and I thought about how rusty I could be the entire drive to the University.
Prior to the meeting, I decided to schedule an appointment to view several apartments located throughout the campus. Needless to say, it was nowhere near the apartment I lived in at West Virginia. Everything was smaller, older, and more expensive, those are not typically things you're looking for in a place to live. Without being able to reach an agreement on a new housing situation, I made my way to the stadium for the team meeting.
I arrived at the stadium and immediately began reintroducing myself to the players I had spoken to over my spring visit. Overall, I think they were rather pleased with my decision to play for the Bearcats. As the meeting began, myself, as well as all the other incoming new players, were asked to walk to the front of the room and introduce ourselves to the entire team and coaching staff. The veteran players all snickered and mumbled at each freshman trying to make a solid first impression. Then it was my turn for an introduction.
As always, I was dressed completely in black. Black athletic crew socks, black shorts, black t-shirt, and a backwards black hat I had gotten from local seafood company in Chicago. I was significantly larger than any of the incoming players and I felt as if I stuck out significantly when put in a line of kids freshly graduated from high school. Before speaking, I took off my hat, revealing my shaved head. There was a silence that took over the crowd. I stepped forward and said, "My name is Ben Tomasek, I'm from Chicago, and I play defensive line." I then put my hat back on and stepped back in line. The large chatter resumed amongst the audience.