ELHS’s Thomas Bartok enjoys his football journey

East Lyme High School offensive lineman Thomas Bartok (photo submitted)
East Lyme High School offensive lineman Thomas Bartok (photo submitted)

Thomas Bartok, a senior at East Lyme High School, started all 10 games as an offensive lineman for the Vikings varsity team this past season and helped lead them to a 7-3 season following a disappointing 1-9 season the year prior.

Bartok’s parents, Tom and Mandy Bartok, knew he was physically gifted at a young age. Now standing at 6 feet, 3 inches and 270 pounds, he has the prototype body for an offensive lineman. After his junior and senior seasons, Bartok was selected to the USA National Football Team, playing most recently at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, this past January.

Following his senior season, Bartok was selected as an All-Conference Offensive Lineman. “Helping to bring success to the East Lyme football program has been a great personal achievement,” said Bartok.

Bartok’s love of the game might have not have prevented some parents from denying him the opportunity to play because of the fear of concussions.

Fear over concussions and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) have led to a 2.5 percent decline in high school football participation and 27.7 percentdrop in youth participation since 2010, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“My parents have always been supportive of my football interests and have never discouraged me from playing the sport I’m passionate about,” said Bartok.

“We have discussed good preparation for the body and its benefits to lower risk of injury,” said Tom and Mandy Bartok in an email. “For parents who suggest not playing, injuries and health problems come with any sport.”

Thomas has endured small nicks and bruises and minor ankle and finger sprains. But his efforts to keep his body in shape and rehabbing efficiently has allowed him to avoid serious injuries.

The Bartoks said they realized their son could play at a higher level when he showed signs of success playing against older kids.

“His placement at a young age required this at times and he showed positive results,” they said.

“Because I’ve always been big for my age, I consistently had to play with older kids through youth football,” Bartok explained. “Having to do this at times made me feel out of place. I was often playing with kids I didn’t know and who were older than me.”

But as he got older, his performance grew exponentially. He became a starter for the varsity team his sophomore year.

“Thomas is an exemplary student and athlete. He’s a great teammate and even better kid,” said coach Rudy Bagos.

Much of his growth on the field can be traced to the national camps he has attended since 2012.

“Learning from experienced and high-level coaches was a highlight of attending these camps,” Bartok said. “They made me more confident in my abilities to play at various levels of the sport.”

Most recently, this past July he attended a camp in South Carolina. For two days, he was put to the test against tough competition, even competing with the No. 4 defensive tackle in the country at the time, Josh Belk, who is going to play for Clemson University.

Bartok’s aspirations go past football, as he is considering University of New England, Western New England University, Southern Connecticut University and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He plans to study psychology with a specialized focus on mental health for teens.

With a bright future, on and off the field, Bartok’s passion for the sport has created many friendships, learning experiences and opportunities. When asked what they want their son to learn from football, Tom and Mandy Bartok stated “Lessons that can be taken from the field and applied to life; hard work, developing confidence, and overcoming adverse situations.”

k.norton@theday.com

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