‘From Prison to the Olympics’: Former BMX pro Tony Hoffman speaking Sept. 7 at UNK

KEARNEY – Tony Hoffman was a top-ranked BMX rider with multiple endorsements.

Then drug addiction derailed his career.

The Clovis, California, native will share his story of sports stardom, substance abuse, mental health struggles, homelessness and redemption during an upcoming appearance at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. His presentation, “From Prison to the Olympics,” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 7 in the Health and Sports Center on campus. The event is free and open to the public.

During his senior year of high school, Hoffman was sponsored by Fox Racing, Spy sunglasses and Airwalk shoes and featured on the cover of BMXer magazine. On the surface, his life seemed perfect, but in reality he was experiencing crippling anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations.

His substance use began that same year, leading to the deterioration of his mental health and an opioid addiction. A life of addiction, crime, homelessness and incarceration became his new reality.

In 2004, Hoffman committed a home invasion armed robbery and was ultimately sentenced to four years in prison. He began rebuilding his life while behind bars.

After he was granted parole in December 2008, Hoffman started living his dream, with addiction behind him. The former BMX pro raced at the highest level for several years before an injury forced him to focus exclusively on coaching. He’s coached world-class athletes from around the world, including Brooke Crain, who finished fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

As a speaker, Hoffman uses his inspiring story to promote mental health and substance abuse awareness and advocate for a shift in thinking regarding addiction recovery processes. He founded the Freewheel Project, a nonprofit organization that mentored youths through action sports, before becoming a professional mental health and substance abuse speaker. Hoffman also owns a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Southern California.

The Kearney event is sponsored by UNK Student Health and Counseling, UNK Health Promotion, UNK Athletics and Region 3 Behavioral Health Services. It’s partially funded by a grant from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and Region 3 Behavioral Health Services.