When Tommy Vardaman graduated from Portage High School, his thoughts were mainly on getting out of the city. He did, for a while, attending college first at Indiana Wesleyan and then on to a ministry school in Alabama. It took a few more years, however, before Vardaman came back to his roots.
Those years were full of traveling throughout the United States with an evangelist, eventually settling in California where he took a position as a youth minister. During those years Vardaman met and married his wife, and he had a full-time sales job at a car dealership. While the money was great, the lifestyle had him yearning for a different life, one back home.
“When I was away, I realized that there’s no place like home. Sometimes when you’re here you want to do everything you can to get out of this city and then when you leave it you realize that everything you care about is here,” Vardaman said. “I missed family and the streets that I grew up in. There’s nothing like growing up here and I want my kids to experience that.”
Coming home to Portage, Vardaman and his wife began building their life here. Eventually, Vardaman landed his dream job - well, two dream jobs to be exact: football coach and youth pastor.
“When I left for college, I felt that the Lord laid on my heart that I was going to be a Youth Pastor and a football coach one day,” he said. “Last year I was hired as a coach for the Portage varsity team and the next day I was hired as a Youth Pastor.”
Being able to work in the church he attended as a youth was a dream fulfilled for Vardaman. It’s an excellent way for him to show the love and hope he found.
“I can imagine what these students are going through today and being able to bring them hope, to show them there is a purpose to their lives and being able to just love them is one of the best things,” Vardaman said.
While Vardaman left coaching recently, he says he will always enjoy being able to work with the team that he had loved being a part of when he was a student.
Whatever Vardaman is doing, his family is his first priority.
“I value my time with my family. I always wanted to be that dad who is there for my kids,” he said. “We love getting out and taking our kids to different parks, especially Olson Park.”
Being a part of the Portage community is something that Vardaman has grown to appreciate throughout the years. He has a deep love for his hometown and is doing all he can to make it a better place.
“I love the city and am passionate about being a role model to the youth,” he said. “My heart is here because I grew up here. I love how whenever something happens, this community comes together. That Portage blood is in us, it’s in our DNA.”