Oct. 18, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
When he arrived at Georgia Tech, Tomas Motiejunas was – more or less – in tow. A twin, he followed his older (by seven minutes) brother Jonas, a budding track star. For giggles, the wiry guy walked onto the football team as a wide receiver in 1993.
Football was certainly nothing special that season, nor in the fall of ’94 as George O’Leary replaced head coach Bill Lewis. So Tomas walked on the track team in spring of ’95. Even that was kind of a ho-hum deal.
He was a second – or third – banana kind of guy.
For a while.
Tomas Motiejunas, the wiry Clevelander who moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., before joining his brother at Tech would not be inducted tonight in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame tonight if something didn’t begin to click.
Track coach Grover Hinsdale kept working with him, and come spring of ’97 Tomas sprang like a spring that had been loaded under an anvil.
From a run-of-the-mill meet in Alabama (he cannot remember exactly where), he took off to help tow historic batons. Multiple All-ACC and All-America honors followed indoors and out in ’97 and ’98 when he capped his career – with Jonas – by teaming for a national title in the 4×400-meter relay.
“Jonas came for track,” said Tomas, who had run in high school while also playing football and basketball. “I came, too. I walked on the football team the first year, and the second year I did both. The first couple years I was pretty average [in track].”
It’s not exactly a surprise that Tech would turn out more 400-meter stars. Former Yellow Jacket Antonio McKay Sr. won Olympic gold in ’84 and ’88, and track coach Grover Hinsdale at Tech mentored ’96 champion Derrick Adkins, 2000 gold medalist Angelo Taylor, and Derek Mills was a member of the ’96 4×400 relay gold medal team.
Hinsdale was an assistant at Tech during McKay Sr.’s time on The Flats, and he also worked with brother Jonas, a two-time NCAA champion who went into the Tech Hall two years ago.
“Early in that third season, I ran in the 40s [seconds]. I remember coach Hinsdale saying, ‘Do you know what you just ran?'” Tomas said. “I said no. He said the time, which I don’t remember, but it was in the 45s. He was so excited, almost out of breath. I said, ‘Wow. It didn’t feel that fast.’ I had been probably in the 47s before.”
Tomas dropped football and stuck with track after his second year at Tech, working that like the businessman that he’s become. Tomas earned All-America honors four times in the 4×400 meter relay and once in the indoor 400. He was part of four ACC 4×400 relay championship teams, earning All-ACC honors each time, and won a conference 400 meter title himself.
He’s still winning. Tomas and a former high school teammate from Scottsdale a few years ago formed Orizon IPE, an environmental and safety compliance business. They have offices in Atlanta and Phoenix. Jonas, a member of the 2000 Lithuanian Olympic team who like Tomas lives in Atlanta with his family, helps out with marketing.
Tomas’ Tech degree in Industrial Engineering has come into play in building and running a business. His Tech education has helped plenty before that.
“Right out of school I started working for a company in environmental and safety. It had nothing to do with industrial engineering, but it was a great opportunity, the first company I interviewed with at Tech,” he said. “After a while I went into sales for a few years and then back to environmental and safety.
“My business partner in Phoenix and I always said we should do this ourselves, and we did. We help keep companies, mostly in manufacturing, in compliance with the EPA and OHSA and so forth. A lot of them don’t have the full-time people on staff to keep up, and they outsource to us. We help with permits and training employees, too.”
Unlike some of his former HOF inductees who haven’t been to Tech since they left school (Jon Carman and Cory Vance return this weekend for the first time in more than a decade each), Tomas Motiejunas, his wife and two daughters have been around.
“We tailgate all the time at football games,” he said. “It’s great, but I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”
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