WILLMAR -- Tom Boike is a very tall kid off a crop farm outside Willmar who has found a two-year home at Ridgewater College.
He starts his final semester soon before transferring his credits to perhaps Minnesota State Mankato or the University of Minnesota. He doesn't plan to stay on the farm. He's looking at nursing as a career.
"I was going to major in history but jobs are a little hard to find," he explained this week. Boike is a rangy 6-foot-8 "with my shoes on" and a two-sport college athlete.
He started all 18-games at right tackle for coach Rob Baumgarn's football team, which went 5-4 both years. This winter is his second on the basketball team. Coach Bob Knutson has started him twice; otherwise, it's not long before he's rotating in at center.
Knutson found the soft-spoken Willmar High School student with reddish features an easy recruit.
"Early on, he wanted to come here. He has great footwork, shoots well and there's that size," said the third-year Ridgewater coach.
Boike knew he wanted to play both football and basketball in college, just like his brother Justin had five years earlier.
"The coaches here make it easy to play both sports," said Tom. "If it's something you really want to do, I say don't be afraid to try it."
Boike never missed a game in high school or college until Dec. 19 when he sat out a Friday night game at Brainerd against Rainy River. He had rolled an ankle the day before at practice. He did play two days later.
His success, especially in basketball, has been greater in college than high school. He's worked harder, lifted more and shed about 50 pounds of "baby fat."
"I was 290 in high school," he said. "I played football this year at about 245 and I'm at 235 for basketball.
He's become a runner -- he's done four straight Foot Lake 4s with a top time of 28 minutes. His ambition is to do a marathon.
"Running is something I really learned to enjoy," he said.
"He's gotten quicker and he's in great shape," said Knutson. "He's worked so hard in the off season. Besides that, he's so coachable. We needed him to step up this year and he's someone who likes to take on challenges."
Ridgewater's 2008 All-America running back Alex McLaughlin has been an inspiration, Boike said.
"It was a blast blocking for him," said Boike. "He was a real motivator; he works so hard in the weightroom, he makes you want to work hard, too."
Besides Justin and Tom, Byron and Lori Boike have also raised two daughters, Melanie and Katherine. Byron's father also farmed and Lori (Larson) grew up on a dairy farm near New London.
"We use to have pigs and chickens but now we raise just corn and soybeans," said Tom, who has no plans to farm.
"My brother might help dad if he gets a job around here, but I've always been more interested in medicine," said Tom.
On the fly
? n Kansas women's basketball head coach Bonnie Henrickson (WHS '81) held her annual Jayhawks' Holiday Hoops Clinic for K-8th graders at Allen Fieldhouse on New Year's Day. The Jayhawks (9-2) open Big 12 play at Kansas State on Jan. 10.
? n Joel Jonsson, the Swedish exchange student who was the Cardinal boys hockey MVP 2006-07, is back in the United States and visiting his former host family here. After finish school in his home country last year, he returned to the U.S. and is playing for Manchester in the New Hampshire Junior Hockey League. He would like to return to the Midwest, he said, and perhaps enroll at Concordia College and play for the Cobbers.
? n Michael Breen, a Willmar graduate who played baseball and hockey, attended the Insight Bowl but could easily cheer for either team. He's a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the University of Kansas law school.