WORTHINGTON -- To watch Tommy Lais participate in sports nowadays, you’ve gotta smile.
Longtime fans of Worthington High School athletics remember the lean years, the years when the young athlete was thrown against challenges he seemed barely ready to take on. He never complained, he always did the best he could, but he took his lumps in the learning process.
Today, Lais -- a strong, well-proportioned 6-4, 190-pound three-sport star -- is feeling the results of his odyssey. A senior, he has become an important part of WHS football, baseball and wrestling.
A tight end, he scored on an impressive 39-yard pass play in the Trojans’ first football game of the 2020 season and is a key member of a team that defeated New Ulm 27-8 last weekend in what was one of the best all-around games played by a WHS team in years. He has also come into his own as a wrestler and a baseball player.
In wrestling, Lais was beaten up at times against older, more experienced opponents during his underclassman years on varsity. But he kept plugging away, and now he’s beating up on his share of rivals. In baseball, he seemed to turn from a caterpillar into a butterfly overnight. His defensive abilities as a catcher are truly stunning, and he’s an excellent hitter, too.
Ah, it’s good to be a senior. Lais has come a long way.
“I had a lot of growing pains in wrestling. I had to face a bunch of tough kids who were better than me. And I was really young and inexperienced. And my teammates, who I practiced with, have helped me get better over the years,” he recalled recently.
Lais always remembers to thank coaches and teammates who kept him from getting discouraged.
He gets plenty of encouragement at home, too. His father, Gene, is the head coach of the football team. His twin brother, Kent, is also a fine WHS athlete.
Friends and fans often wonder how Tommy’s size differs significantly from his brother.
“I’m only like 10-15 pounds heavier, but a couple inches taller than him,” Tommy says. “I don’t really know how that happened, but he’s still a good athlete the way he is. Doesn’t really matter.”
Indeed, it surely does not. Kent made several impressive plays in Friday’s 27-8 thumping of New Ulm. He is putting together a solid WHS athletic career in his own right.
The Globe chose Tommy to be this week’s subject for The Drill. You can see the video online at www.dglobe.com. Here’s a sampling of the interview:
QUESTION: Have you got a special sports story that you’ll always remember?
ANSWER: “It was seventh-grade baseball, we’re taking infield. Our coach hit a ball. My brother was at first base, and he got the ball and I wasn’t looking. And he threw the ball and it hit me. And I got all pissed off at him. It frustrated me. I ended up playing pretty good that game, and he did, too. It was all just fun after that.”
QUESTION: During your high school athletic career, how did you handle discouragement as you struggled to grow as an athlete?
ANSWER: “I think it was a long process to turn me into the athlete that I am. Being in the weight room with my teammates and coaches, they just helped me out a lot. Aw, yeah, I would get discouraged every once in a while in all my sports. I’d have a bad day or a bad match. It’d get me down. But then I have my teammates and my coaches who are just there for me. Help pick me up after games.”
QUESTION: How did your dad help?
ANSWER: “My dad, he’s the head football coach over here. And he just told us all never to accept ‘OK.’ Always do your best. Try hard no matter what.”