Tomlinson’s Lorenzen story for ESPN The Magazine “strikes a chord”

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Tommy Tomlinson’s piece in ESPN The Magazine’s NFL Preview issue.

ESPN The Magazine’s NFL Preview issue is loaded with everything fans need for the start of another season.

Tommy Tomlinson

Tommy Tomlinson

But it’s the story of ex-NFL quarterback Jared Lorenzen that has garnered social attention and critical acclaim.

Lorenzen, who played college football at Kentucky and then spent two seasons with the New York Giants, was a bit of a cultural phenom because of his girth (he hovered near 300 pounds as a player) and a gun of an arm.

Writer Tommy Tomlinson, who identifies himself an “everyday fat guy” in the piece, wrote a unique story that wove in some of his own personal history with excess weight.

“The key to the whole thing was Jared’s willingness to be open and true,” said Tomlinson, who has written for The Mag and other outlets. “It did help, I think, that we share a lot of the same weight issues — we spent a lot of our first conversation talking about junk food and where to get clothes, and that ended up becoming the beginning of the story. A big part of this job is trying to understand and describe the world from someone else’s point of view — to tell their story in an authentic way. The big advantage for me on this story was that I already understood Jared’s world pretty well.”

“What makes Tommy special, to me, is how empathetic he is,” said Mag editor Jay Lovinger. “In this case, his empathy was obvious, and has an obvious source — that he shares, and therefore understands perfectly, the problem at the core of the story.

It did help, I think, that we share a lot of the same weight issues — we spent a lot of our first conversation talking about junk food and where to get clothes, and that ended up becoming the beginning of the story. - Tommy Tomlinson

“I look for stories that have the qualities of good movies — characters you care about (whether you love or hate them) and care about what happens to them; drama: subtlety; complexity — which is to say, stories that scratch at something profound about the human conditions without coming up with facile and definitive, and therefore unconvincing, conclusions.”

Tomlinson has again seen, firsthand, the effect of having a story shared across ESPN platforms, “which is all a writer can ask for.

“The story has really struck a chord, especially with people struggling with their own weight problems,” he said. “I’ve gotten dozens of messages from people who saw themselves in the story and are making their own commitments to get in better shape. And I’ve also heard from lots of people who said they have a better understanding of what it’s like to be overweight — or to deal with any kind of addiction or obsession. The response has made me really happy, and grateful to have been able to do the story.”

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