State of the Hogs: Tony Bua
Tony Bua's legacy as a football player at Arkansas centered around his great effort. No one worked any harder on the field or in the weight room. It's not that he lacked talent, but work ethic was probably his top asset.
So no one that knows Bua was surprised when they saw the sweat equity he put into his first business venture after the end of his playing career. The UA's all-time leading tackler with 408 from 2000-03, has opened Tony Bua's Next Level Training in Rogers.
If you walk through the doors of the facility on 14th street just north of Walnut in the heart of Rogers, you are going to see the fruits of his labor over the last four months.
"I hope what you'll see when you come in here is me, all me," Bua said. "I put my money into this place and, more to the point, my work here. I built the walls. I put in the fixtures. Basically, I took what looked like an airplane hanger and built this place."
Fortunately, Bua had more than football skills and work ethic when he showed up in the Ozarks to play for the Hogs. His father is a successful builder and contractor in New Orleans. Tony learned plenty working summers in that business.
Still, it's hard to believe what he's done in what was once a garage door business. He's put up walls to section off the facility into batting cages, a basketball/volleyball court, dressing rooms and a weightlifting area. There are video rooms to study tapes of your play in almost any sport you can imagine and a posh viewing room where parents can watch their children train. Bua built it all.
"I've spent almost every minute I've been awake the last four months here working," Bua said. "I slept up here most nights. My girlfriend would bring me food and help me and she got used to me staying all night.
"One night, my phone rang. She said, ‘Tony, are you staying there all night again?' I told her ‘no,' then she said, ‘It's 1:30 a.m.' I told her I guess I was, then."
Caleb Perry, another former Razorback, visited with Bua in the vacant building four months ago when plans were taking shape.
"I told Caleb what I was going to do and he started shaking his head," Bua said. "He didn't believe it could be done. After five minutes, he said, ‘Tony, I don't see it.' I asked him, ‘Are you doubting me? You know me.' Caleb said he knew not to bet against me. He came back last week and saw it. He didn't believe I'd done all this."
Bua has hired top-level help, but he's got one expert that came cheaply. Ashley Youngs, his steady since his days with the Miami Dolphins, was a fine college volleyball player at the University of Miami.
"She taught lessons to volleyball players when I was playing in Calgary," Bua said. "She is really, really good. I'm amazed at what she can do." And, that's not even talking about the work she put into the facility.
"Some things she wouldn't do — the electrical stuff and the walls — but she helped me paint a lot of it," Bua said. "She rode the scissor lift with me when we were doing the ceiling.
"The main thing, she kept me in food. I was up here working 15 to 20 hours a day the last four months."
Bua will train old and young. He's got high school and middle school athletes working on their specific sports and some in their 60s just going through excercise programs for their heart.
"We'll do whatever you need, but what I want to do is help young people reach their dreams," he said. "I want to do what others did for me in high school, college and professsional training. "Our speciality is to make you faster, stronger and learn the specifics of your sport. We are going to help you in your specific movements for your suppport.
"We want to help you defeat the odds and make something happen in your dreams. If there is one thing I know it is how to defeat odds. I did that. I know what it takes. I will help you beat the odds.
"I think I got stuck with the label as an over achiever because people saw the way I played with passion and intensity. That's not a bad label to get stuck with, but I think I have more to offer. I can make it fun for people.
"They come here, I will show them that I care for people. That's me. That' s what I have to give." With his father's business ties in south Louisiana, why did he pick Rogers?
"Well, I don't think I picked Rogers," he said. "Maybe I shouldn't say that, but it was more like Rogers picked me. I believe God put me here.
"All my life I've wanted to do two things. One, play football. Two, build and open an athletic training center. The drawback to number two was the building. Everything I looked at cost $600,000 or more. Here was an empty building.
"It was just perfect for what I wanted to do. It was perfect timing, too. I wasn't going to play any more football. Everything fit together."
Word is just creeping out that he's in business.
"I've done some advertising, but just a little," he said. "I'm going to start knocking on doors in the community to let people know I'm here. So far, all I've done is work here and build and get it ready. I wanted to have something nice to show people before I told anyone. Now, I'm proud of it. I'm ready."
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