SOUTH BEND — On the same W. Sample St. property the South Bend Chocolate Company’s factory produces its sweet treats, T2 Sports Performance has built a factory of its own.
But instead of chocolate, co-owners Tevin Lake and Robert “Bobbo” Torres are producing better athletes.
T2 Sports Performance operates in the same space as East Race Muscle. Together they’re tucked away on the site of an old South Bend Toy facility. On a nice June day, the garage-style doors open up to welcome clients ready to work.
It’s not an easy place to find, but that hasn’t stopped high school, college and professional athletes from making T2 Sports Performance part of their routine. Just last week, five Notre Dame football players — running backs Jafar Armstrong, Avery Davis and C’Bo Flemister and wide receivers Kevin Austin Jr. and Joe Wilkins Jr. — worked out at T2 together as the team started to reconvene on campus for summer workouts.
Other current Irish football players have made appearances recently too, including defensive linemen Jayson and Justin Ademilola and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
“They have a lot more time on their hands, so they’re staying dedicated to us,” Torres said. “That’s what we love. We’re going to reward that. If you want to get more work, we love that.”
Torres, a 30-year-old Riley grad, started cultivating relationships with Notre Dame football players in 2018 when former cornerback KeiVarae Russell was on campus to finish his degree. The Notre Dame client base grew from there.
Running back Dexter Williams became a regular. Williams, now with the Green Bay Packers, said he would work with Torres three or four times a week during his senior season at Notre Dame.
“I was getting stronger, faster, my endurance and stamina was good, my mobility was a lot better and my flexibility was a whole lot better,” Williams said. “I knew this was stuff that I had to do. My coaches would always tell me that I need to be more flexible. So he provided that to me.”
Williams liked that he found a place where he could work out away from Notre Dame. He was looking to simulate the type of training he used to do back at home in Orlando, Fla., as a high school athlete.
It also helped Williams get to know more people in the South Bend community.
“It was not a spot where a lot of people knew where it was,” Williams said. ”It was a spot you could go to just to get away from Notre Dame, get better and really work at your craft. It was good for the community, because I was able to meet high school kids and stuff from the community and different people who were working out. It wasn’t just Notre Dame athletes.”
Becoming a popular spot for Notre Dame athletes wasn’t necessarily the goal for Lake when he co-founded T2 Sports Performance with Tyler Lymburner in 2016. Lake, a former star running back at Adams and NAIA All-American at Marian University, wanted to create something in the community that he didn’t necessarily have as a young athlete.
“I was a product of South Bend, but I didn’t have the type of training that we offer,” Lake said. “I wish I had a Bobbo and Tevin. If I had a Bobbo and Tevin, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
Torres jokes with Lake when he does footwork drills that he should be doing these drills as an NFL running back and not a trainer. The 5-foot-8, 205-pound Lake didn’t have prototypical NFL size or speed. But he was a prolific back at Marian, where he set school records in career rushing attempts (1,167), rushing yards (5,450) and rushing touchdowns (63). The Knights won an NAIA national championship with Lake at running back in 2012.
Lake, now 28, took part in a couple Pro Days ahead of the 2015 NFL Draft, but he wasn’t able to convince any teams to give him a chance. He hopes the training T2 provides its athletes will give them a better shot than Lake.
“Nobody taught me how to run the 40,” Lake said. “Nobody taught me the sprint mechanics. Nobody taught me the detailed posture mechanics that we teach our athletes now.”
T2’s focus isn’t limited to football. It’s training staff takes on athletes of all kinds with functional mobility as a starting point and designing drills for specific sports. T2 also offers individual training or group classes for adults looking to get in better shape. Details can be found on its website at www.t2sp.training.
“Whether you’re from Notre Dame or you’re from Edison Middle School, we don’t treat you any different,” Lake said. “We want you to get the best results.”
T2 took on its first local high school team as a client last year after Alisha Fransted became the head volleyball coach at South Bend Saint Joseph. Fransted already knew Lake and noticed that he was training high school kids.
Together they put together a plan for T2 to lead twice weekly summer workouts for her players. The voluntary workouts took place at Saint Joe and each player was responsible for paying T2 for the sessions.
Fransted said every single player made improvements in their physical testing from the beginning to the end of the summer workout program. She noticed her hitters making contact higher above the net, her defensive specialists reaching more balls and her setters being in better positions with improved footwork.
The T2 trainers impressed Fransted by taking the time to learn what would work best for her volleyball players.
“They took the challenge on and they did research,” Fransted said. “As a coach, that meant that my program meant something to them.”
This year, T2 put together videos for 43 of Fransted’s players to do workouts from home during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s the kind of special care she’s become accustomed to with T2, even if she’s joked with Lake about him training some volleyball players at a rival school.
“They’re not cookie-cutter trainers,” Fransted said. “They think outside the box. They’re not satisfied ever. They always come up with new, innovative exercises to keep them engaged.”
Building a community
Mike Baxter, owner of East Race Muscle, said it’s nothing short of amazing to see how far T2 has come since he first had discussions with Lake about the idea in 2015. T2 used to occupy only a small strip of turf on the edge of the East Race Muscle facility. Now it’s expanded on both sides of the gym.
“You’re talking about a guy who did everything on his own in his journey with football and becoming an All-American,” Baxter said. “He did it all by himself.”
“Now his journey is to give back to the community and help these kids have a base where they can go to and make sure they don’t have to do the same things that he had to do to get to where they want to go. Help them reach their goals — that’s what he’s doing.”
With the connections that Torres has made with Notre Dame athletes, it’s given the younger athletes examples of what they want to become. When they were younger athletes growing up in South Bend, Torres and Lake didn’t feel connected to the athletes at Notre Dame.
But when local athletes can see someone like Demetrius Jackson working out at T2, they can see a local success story who chased his dream at Notre Dame. Jackson, a former Irish point guard and NBA player, works out at T2 twice a week. He’s currently a free agent after being released by the G League’s South Bay Lakers in February.
Jackson, who has been training with T2 since 2018, sees the benefit of having athletes like himself working out at the same facility as aspiring athletes.
“Having those Notre Dame athletes in there, having professional athletes come though putting in work, it shows people if you work hard, good things happen,” Jackson said. “We are all very capable no matter what level you’re at.”
Jackson said training with Torres has helped his footwork, explosion, strength and conditioning. But the experience at T2 brings him more than just physical gains. He’s regained some confidence while recovering from a foot injury.
“The biggest thing that I’ve taken away from there is my mindset,” Jackson said. “We’re really big on mindset in there. The mindset and the culture they’ve helped develop, they really do a good job building people up. People believe in themselves. It’s amazing.”
The gym will be getting a facelift with new turf set to be installed, new equipment on the way and the expansion. But Torres and Lake don’t want to lose the atmosphere they’ve created. Athletes like Jackson have come to embrace its understated qualities.
“The cool thing about it is that when you go in there they don’t have all this fancy equipment,” Jackson said. “They don’t have all this extra stuff, which those things are nice and can be utilized, but I feel just as good, if not better, working out in this place than I have in any nice, beautiful NBA facility.”
Befitting a gym in South Bend, T2 has a sign that says “G.R.I.N.D. Like a Champion Today.” G.R.I.N.D. stands for “Get Ready. It’s a New Day.”
Torres and Lake live the motto themselves. Despite taking a role as a co-owner last year, Torres still trains athletes from as early as 5:30 a.m. to as late as 10 p.m. Lake works 40 hours a week as a physical therapist at ATI Physical Therapy in Mishawaka in addition to training at T2.
Lake and Torres can talk for an hour about building the culture at T2. The conversation includes more “we” than “I” or “me.” They treat the physical building itself as a communal space. They want the athletes who went out of their way to find T2 to take pride in it too.
It’s more of a family than a factory.
“I always tell the kids, ‘Congratulations. This is what you built,’” Torres said. “We’re doing this for you. We want you to call this home. So when you come home and train for the summer, you can get away. I want you to feel like this is your gym.”