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The Forest Scout’s 2024 Male Athlete of the Year: Tommie Aberle

Graphic courtesy of Taylor Ross

Senior Tommie Aberle is an accomplished multi-sport athlete; his skills, raw talent, and athletic versatility are undeniable.

Aberle’s accomplishments in basketball include earning three-time All-Conference recognition, being awarded the title of 2023-24 NSC Player of the Year, and earning Second Team All-State recognition. Additionally, as a point guard, he tallied over 1,000 career points. In football, Aberle is a two-time All-Conference player.

However, great athletes are measured by more than just their skills. Skills only take one so far. What makes Aberle the ultimate athlete is that beyond his natural talent, he possesses a true passion for the game, unwavering determination, and exceptional leadership qualities.

Aberle playing infield as a child. (Courtesy of Kathleen Aberle)

He began playing baseball, basketball, and football at the age of three.

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“I kind of just fell in love with the idea of sports,” said Aberle. “My older brother is one of my best friends and he played football and basketball. Seeing him play when I was younger always inspired me to want to play too.”

Aberle’s athletic prowess was apparent throughout his youth.

“Tommie stood out, not because he was taller than everybody else, but because he was so much more advanced than the other kids his age. He was comfortable using either hand to attack the hoop and made full-court bounce passes…at 11 years old,” said his former basketball coach and LFHS Head Baseball Coach Michael Nilles.

Throughout middle school and his freshman and sophomore years of high school, Aberle continued as a three-season athlete playing football, basketball, and baseball. However, in his junior year, he decided to focus on his two best sports: basketball and football.

Though he excelled in both, he selected football as the sport he wanted to pursue in college.

“I figured that football was what I wanted to do in college. It was a hard decision between that and basketball, but I felt like football was better suited for me,” said Aberle.

After an exceptional senior season as a middle linebacker, Aberle committed to play Division 1 football for Butler University.

“I went to Butler where I had so much fun and felt a real connection with all the players I met,” said Aberle. “I knew that was where I belonged and where I wanted to be.”

As he looks ahead to his collegiate football career, Aberle said, “I am most looking forward to the different level of competition, and I am excited to have to prove myself again and start from the bottom and work my way up.”

The most profound lesson Aberle has learned throughout his athletic career is not to fear adversity but rather to embrace it.

As an athlete, adversity is the arena in which you play. Some may find adversity uncomfortable and purposely seek to avoid it, however, Aberle welcomes it, knowing that it is through facing challenges that one’s character is both forged and revealed.

“Battling with adversity is a big thing you can get injured or go through a slump where you’re not playing well. You find out who you are when no one else is there for you,” said Aberle. “That’s the biggest lesson that sports has taught me.”

Aberle’s willingness to face challenges is not just present on the court and field but extends to other facets of his life, including academics.

“He [Aberle] not only overcomes adversity in the classroom but he actually likes it. He likes struggling to learn new things,” said English teacher Mr. Peter Lubliner.

Aberle’s dealings with adversity have helped strengthen his character and have molded him into an exceptional leader.

In recognition of his leadership capabilities, Aberle was selected as a captain for both the football and basketball teams.

“Leadership does not have a specific formula, and Tommie is a tremendous leader. He is the player who will lead his team through the difficult times. He never worries about himself. He is always trying to do what is best for his team,” said Varsity Football Coach Chuck Spagnoli.

His leadership is not only recognized by his coaches but is also greatly valued by his teammates.

“Tommie is the greatest leader I’ve ever seen on the field,” said varsity football safety Miles Specketer. “Whenever I was out on the football field and I saw Tommie I felt like we could stop any team.”

Aberle’s teammates looked to him as a source of confidence and strength during difficult and uncertain moments.

“One basketball game in particular at Warren High School, Tommie had a special impact. In a game where every play matters and we got so caught up in the moment, Tommie not only told us how to finish the game, but he showed us. After the timeout, he took control and we finished the game as a team,” said varsity basketball player Campbell Allan.

As a leader, Aberle always prioritizes his teammates over himself.

“Tommie is a great athlete but a better teammate. That’s what I admire most about him. He knows how to get it done, but wants his peers to do it with him,” said Allan. “Even though he gets the attention and acknowledgment that he deserves, he never leaves his team out.”

Juniors and seniors on the basketball team are responsible for serving as mentors to younger teammates, a role that Aberle thoroughly enjoyed.

Aberle scoring a layup (Colin Peters)

“Tommie will be missed, not only as a player but as a teammate and a mentor to the younger players in our program,” said Assistant Varsity Basketball Coach Adam Mocogni.

Another factor that has contributed to Aberle’s success is his unrelenting competitive spirit.

“I am pretty driven. I always feel motivated. I am very passionate about sports and when I play I feel like my passion is something that gives me a little bit of an edge,” said Aberle.

Aberle constantly pushes himself to reach his full athletic potential. His insatiable drive to improve as a player is one of the things that sets him apart from many other athletes.

“Not everyone has the athleticism and skill as Tommie, but every coach dreams of coaching a team full of players who have his passion and intensity,” said Nilles.

Regardless of the sport, Aberle brings the same level of intensity to team practices and games.

“Tommie is the ultimate competitor. He always wanted to win and was willing to do whatever it took to do so,” said Mocogni. “He has approached every day with a ‘can do’ attitude and that has made coaching him very enjoyable.”

His competitiveness pushes him to give his all until there is no time left on the clock. This was exemplified in the buzzer-beater layup he scored against Lake Zurich – a moment he considers the highlight of his high school sports career.

Even under intense pressure, in a moment where the stakes were as high as they could be in a basketball game, Aberle remained confident in his ability to succeed and led his team to victory.

Aberle celebrating with teammates after his buzzer-beater layup (Luke Cheng)

Varsity Basketball Head Coach Mr. Phil LaScala said that what he enjoyed most about coaching Aberle was “Watching him grow up as a person, and watching him keep wanting to improve his game every day and never being satisfied with where he is at.”

Reflecting on his athletic career at LFHS, Aberle said he will most miss playing home games and being with his teammates.

“I like playing at home a lot because most people come and it’s really fun seeing everyone there. I also really enjoy seeing the little kids because they are super excited to be there,” said Aberle. “And I’m gonna miss playing with my best friends.”

Likewise, Aberle will be greatly missed by his teammates.

“Tommie is arguably the best teammate I have ever played with,” said varsity basketball guard Bolurin Taiwo.

Aberle is grateful for the support he has received over the years from his family, coaches, and teammates.

“Tommie has been blessed with wonderful coaches and teammates throughout his high school athletic career,” said Kathleen Aberle, Aberle’s mother. “We feel blessed that Tommie has been so fortunate to be a part of the Scouts family.”

Aberle feels especially grateful for Coach Nilles who has coached and mentored him since 5th grade.

“A coach that has been a big role model to me is Coach Nilles. We’ve been very close and he is someone I have really looked up to,” said Aberle.

Aberle’s parents are proud of the role sports have played in developing their son’s character and contributing to the person he is today.

“We are most proud of Tommie for remaining humble and recognizing that he has been part of some wonderful teams. Tommie cares very deeply for all of his teammates and it was important to him that he set a good example of what it meant to be a Lake Forest Scout, through his sacrifice, his work ethic, and competitiveness,” said Kathleen Aberle.

Considering his legacy, Aberle hopes he is remembered as someone “who always wanted to win, was a really good teammate, and helped to win a lot of games.”

The most important advice Aberle would like to share with other athletes is to “stay true to yourself, you don’t need to compare yourself to other people because comparison just takes away from the joy of what you’re accomplishing yourself,” said Aberle. “I think you should just compare what you did before to what you’re doing now because that is a better representation than comparing yourself to other people.”

In looking back at Aberle’s impact on the Scouts Football Program Spagnoli said, “Tommie has contributed as much to our program as any player we have ever had. I will always be indebted to him for all he gave to Scouts Football.”

There is no question that Aberle will be remembered by his coaches and teammates for many years to come.

Aberle is one of many skilled athletes in the high school ranks. However, it is the rare combination of his talent, fierce competitiveness, driven passion for winning, and proven leadership abilities that make Aberle a one-of-a-kind athlete.

This story was originally published on The Forest Scout on May 13, 2024.