"People wondered what was going on," says Tina Babin, his mother. "Now that I think back on it, it was strange."
While Babin had been an exceptional athlete at Paw Paw High - he not only played football but was state heavyweight champion in wrestling - he aspired from a young age to become a Navy SEAL. His uncle has been one. Babin says, "When it came to the outdoors - survival, shooting, hand-to-hand combat - I loved that stuff."
But the Navy told him it could not accept him because he had asthma. Heartbroken, Babin began weighing the possibility of playing college football instead. Big Ten schools were recruiting him.
But early in his senior year, he says he "landed the wrong way in a pile" and broke a leg. Tina remembers how her son dissolved into tears in the hospital - again, it appeared his dreams were dashed. "The Big Ten stopped looking at him at that point," she says. Incredibly, he healed quickly enough to play the final two games of the season. When Western Michigan offered him a scholarship, Tina says the town's judges closed their courtroom to stop by the news conference that was held in his honor.
"I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to succeed, and I understood that a big part of that was physical conditioning," says Babin, 32. "When I talk to young people today, I stress hard work and dedication. What I learned in high school transferred over into life, and I still hold them to this day."
And how did he come up with the idea of running with that tire?
He laughs. "I always had a quick first step, but I wanted to improve my straight line speed," says Babin, who remembers that he attached weighed plates to the tire. "It was kind of loud."
- Mark Kram