September 13, 2008

Year off helps Pomele find his purpose

No, it's not the script for a made-for-TV movie. It's the story of Kansas State linebacker Ulla Pomele, and what a story it is. A standout football player walks away from the game in an effort to "find himself," leaving his friends, family and a football scholarship in limbo. But the surface of his unique tale is nothing more than a penny in a bucket overflowing with change.

Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College head coach Keith Simons, who coached Pomele a year ago, says from the time he saw the current K-State linebacker on the field, he knew he wanted him at his school, but what the Bear Cubs' staff didn't know about their future player at that time could have filled the pages of a Leo Tolstoy novel.

That would all be reveled later.

Pomele was certainly the caliber of athlete Simons and his staff seek, and having coached his older brother just years before, convincing the high school standout to follow in his sibling's footsteps wasn't all that difficult. So a letter of intent was signed, and the linebacker's name became another on the list of players expected to report to camp in the fall of 2006. But the Bear Cubs' coaching staff would soon find out, in a rather abrupt manner, that Pomele was different than the rest of his recruiting class.

"I had this empty feeling in my heart back when (Santa Rosa was) recruiting me," Pomele said. "I knew I was missing something inside my heart. I just wasn't happy with my life."

No matter what it was that created the emptiness, the California native's future school couldn't help but be affected by it, as it soon became clear that the hole wasn't likely to be filled by laying the lumber to an opposing quarterback back on a Saturday night. This problem was something much larger than football, and a strong family tie would soon present a remedy that had those closest to Pomele scratching their heads.

In the summer of 2006, Pomele's cousin told him of the Masters Commission, a Christian discipleship program designed to help those who enroll to foster a relationship with God, and in that, the linebacker saw an opportunity. Not long after being briefed on the program, it was decided. Pomele would put his life and promising football career on hold for nearly an entire calendar year in favor of religious schooling and missionary work.

Then came the difficult part. This kind of decision was far from choosing Skippy over Jiff after all. A life-altering choice had been made, and Pomele struggled to find the strength to tell both his family and the coaching staff that was expecting to see his face on campus in just less than two months.

"I was nervous when I had to tell the coaches," Pomele said. "I knew it was going to be tough to tell them, and it was going to be tough for them to accept it, but I needed to do this for me."

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