Tiger Profile: Bryan Lundquist
Feb. 21, 2007
Ever heard of Michael Jordan? He played basketball for the...OK, OK, dumb question. Then you probably also know that when he was a sophomore he was cut from his high school basketball team. He worked hard and eventually, the coaches came to their senses, gave him a jersey, and bam, he led his team to a state championship his senior year.
Or how about Serena Williams? Seriously, who ever thought she'd take down Venus on the tennis court? But it happened. In March of 2002, Serena beat Venus. Now, it's a common occurrence. In 1997, Serena was ranked 304th in the world. She's reached as high as No. 1, and today, she sits at No. 15, and is the highest ranked American in the polls. Venus is No. 54.
Even some of the most successful professional athletes got their start at the bottom of the barrel. They were cut down, told they couldn't do it, and were even denied their opportunities. But the best, the most determined, the ones with the most resolve, always finish strong.
Some people just have to work harder. Some people have to learn how to swallow their pride. Some people have to ask for help. Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, and Auburn senior swimmer Bryan Lundquist can all vouch for that.
Lundquist is from Marietta, Ga. He graduated in 2003 from Lassiter High and excelled as a sprinter on his high school and club teams. He holds the Georgia state record in the 200 free. He was a three-time state champion and a three-time MVP. He earned eight All-American honors, was a Senior Nationals qualifier and was both Georgia and Cobb County Swimmer of the Year.
But that was high school. This is Auburn, the most renowned name in collegiate swimming. The home of 10 National Championship banners under head coach David Marsh. And when a swimmer comes to Auburn, his high school accomplishments are meaningless. When Lundquist arrived on campus his freshman year, he'll be the first to tell you that he fell in the lower echelon on the men's swimming roster.
"Compared to the people on this team I was at the low level of our recruiting class," he said. "And we've always been so deep in sprinters. Freshman year I was probably six or seven on the totem pole as far as sprinters went. It took a while to get some confidence and realize that I could train with these guys. It was pretty tough."
Listening to him relive his first fall at Auburn, the word "tough" seems like an understatement. Being a freshman on any Division I athletic team is hard enough, but swimming at Auburn is unthinkable. The expectations are the highest and the pressure is on. The upperclassmen know what it's all about. They know what it takes to swim at this level. The freshmen come in blind. You can prepare day and night, rain or shine, yet there is no preparing. Until you've experienced it, you just don't understand.
Clearly, Lundquist didn't understand. But he learned...quickly.
"I was pretty close to leaving my freshman year," he said. "I was getting killed in practice and that was quite a change. I just had a hard time understanding where (the seniors) were coming from and now I understand. It's just a level of intensity that's needed to be this good at swimming, but I just thought they were ragging on me."
Since Lundquist was little, he dreamed of swimming in the Olympics. At the beginning of his freshman year at Auburn, the dream became more and more distant as he struggled to merely survive the program. Luckily, he had people to turn to on the team who convinced him to stay.
"A lot of guys in my class were pretty instrumental in making sure that I stayed," he said. "If I didn't have them there I don't what would've happened. The guys my age got me through it, and my parents kept trying to remind me why I came here. It was difficult, but I wouldn't change my mind for the world now. I'm so glad I didn't make that decision."
He'll tell you that his attitude was partly responsible for his sub-par athletic performance as a freshman, but in some ways, he doesn't regret his struggles. He stayed and not only survived, but excelled in a program that anyone should be proud just to finish.
Now he's a senior and a five-time All-American, a four-time SEC Champion and an NCAA Champion. And now it's his turn and he's got the look of a veteran swimmer for Auburn University. He's confident and poised, and fears no one.
"It's helped me a lot this year going through the experience freshman year," he said. "I feel that I've done a pretty good job this year of leading and I think it takes a dominant personality to say the things that are hard to say. But I hope that at the end of the day, I've put my arm around those guys and made them feel like I'm not attacking them like I felt. I know how tough it was."
It was a learning experience, a long, slow and sometimes painful process. But it all worked out.
"If I could go back with the attitude I have now, a lot of things would be different and I'd have been a lot further along," he said. "In a way it's a regret because it's not what I wanted it to be, but in a way it helped me become better and a bigger help to everyone around. I'm not sure I'd have come this far had I not gone through that."
And as for that Olympic dream, it eventually came back to life.
"I'm motivated to keep swimming and I may have a chance," he said. "I'm going to swim at least to Olympic trials and just see what happens."
Sounds like a plan.
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