Only eight years ago, Kevin Scott and Chris MacLaren were trying to build a hospital while dodging bullets in Afghanistan. They escaped the bloodshed and found their way back home to Tampa.
Scott and MacLaren are doctors at Westchase Sports Medicine in Tampa
, but they haven't forgotten their experiences from halfway across the world. Amidst dozens of autographed sports photos in their clinic, there is a simple wooden crutch. It is something that was built on the fly, something that had to be used and immediately. It is in a framed glass box on the wall at the clinic and touchingly autographed by members of the battalion they were trying to save. The simple crutch worked perfectly.
"We saw a lot of bad guys up close,'' MacLaren says. "There was a shepherd out in the fields and a landmine went off. We had to invent something right away.''
Scott and MacLaren survived Afghanistan, where they battled everything from gunfire to scorpion bites, to open the clinic in Westchase. Now they are embarking on a new endeavor, one that will have major sports figures from all over the world descending on the Tampa Bay region.
They are starting D1 Sports Medicine in Citrus Park
, just north of downtown Tampa near the intersection of Veterans Expressway and Gunn Highway. Now under construction, the training facility is expected to open in late 2011. The amenities offered are designed to attract athletes at every level, from high school to weekend warriors to professionals.
"We knew Tampa needed something like this,'' Scott says. "It's exciting and we just needed some backers to get this underway.''Bringing In The Sports Stars
They are aiming to attract some of the most prominent athletes in Florida to get the project rolling.
"It will be like one-stop shopping,'' Scott says. "You can work out, practice just about any sport, and get nutrition therapy. It's the first type of facility like this anywhere in the state of Florida and we plan to have athletes from all over the world. There's nothing like it anywhere in the state.''
MacLaren and Scott are both ex-athletes. Scott, a former boxer, is an Indiana State Golden Gloves champion and has autographed boxing gloves from some of the greatest of all time surrounding his office. MacLaren played football at Case Western in Ohio.
"I went from being middle linebacker at Case Western to accepting a health profession scholarship,'' MacLaren says. "I decided that I would get my degree through the Army. I went from being a middle linebacker to becoming an Army man.''
In 2002 MacLaren was sent to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He spent six months as chief of orthopedic surgery at a hospital he and Scott started to take care of Afghanis.
"It was tough, but it was worth the effort,'' MacLaren says. "It was nice to get back home.''
Now that he is back on friendly soil, he is working with some of the top athletes in sports and became interested in putting a D1 Sports facility
in Florida four years ago when he forged a friendship with Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk.
"That's when I heard about D1 and what it might mean to the Tampa Bay community,'' MacLaren says. "There were a few of these around the country, but nothing in Florida.''
Attracting Athletes Near And Far
The facility is still in its early stages, but by the time it is completed, MacLaren says it will be one of the most impressive training sites in the world. There are 13 other D1 facilities across the country.
"This is perfect for the Tampa Bay area and something that will attract some major athletes to the area, especially if the NFL lockout continues,'' MacLaren says.
Since 2002, D1 has trained more than 25,000 college scholarship athletes and more than 500 professional athletes at its facilities, mostly located in small college towns. Scott said that Tampa's facility will be different. Not only will professional athletes be able to use it as an off-season facility, it also could be a place for college players to work out for professional scouts and for high school players to show off for college recruiters.
"We have the state of the art facilities and the coaches and high-energy environment to make this unique,'' Scott says. "We see athletes coming from all over the country to Tampa to use our facility because it will be second to none.''Jeff Berlinicke of Tampa is a freelance writer who has spent much of the last 16 years covering professional sports all over the Southeast United States. When not rooting for his favorite teams, he often can be found listening to Bruce Springsteen or teeing up on local golf courses. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.