It's not uncommon for college football players to spend the spring season running track. But it's been a few years since we last had a legitimate NFL prospect, a player you've probably heard of, pay a visit to Franklin Field.
The last such athlete was Florida State wide receiver Michael Ray Garvin, who ran for the Seminoles at the 2009 Penn Relays. He was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals on the weekend of the Relays (they always coincide with the draft), and played for Arizona and the Detroit Lions.
The other football players-turned-sprinters I've seen at Franklin Field are even more well-known.
In 2007, University of Texas running back Jamaal Charles ran the 100-meter sprint for the Longhorns; he has since become the top running back for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Before Charles, there was former Louisiana State wide receiver Xavier Carter. He chose professional track over professional football, and is now firmly established in the United States team. He ran the 4x400 last year and the 400m leg of the men's distance medley relay in 2009. As a collegian, Carter led LSU to back-to-back 4x100 championships of America in 2005 and 2006.
And before both of them, current San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. ran at Franklin Field for for Glenville High School in Cleveland. Ginn went from Cleveland to Columbus, where he became a star at Ohio State. But he never competed in the Penn Relays for the Buckeyes.
(Hat tip to Relays enthusiast Zach in Houston for emailing me about Ginn.)
This year's two-sport star is University of Florida running back Jeff Demps. Currently finishing his junion year in Gainesville, Demps told the Daily News' Frank Bertucci that he isn't sure yet whether he wants to turn pro in football or track. Here's the full story.
READY TO RUN
Jeff Demps isn't upset that the 9:96 100 meters he ran at Florida's Tom Jones Invitational carries a "w" for being "wind-aided."
"It was barely over the limit," said the University of Florida two-sport star.
So that means you should expect some hot times at the 117th Penn Relays in the college men's Championship of America sprint relays at Franklin Field on April 28-29-30. Demps' wind-aided 100 and the 10.07 100 run by Texas A&M's David Phiri stand as the world's best times so far in 2011. And the two figure to go head-to-head on the 4x100 and 4x200 anchor legs.
"Anything around 38 seconds would be good," said Demps of the 4x100. "The 4x2, you just want to come away with the win."
And since Penn's 4x100 record is 38.68 seconds by TCU in 2001, Demps is expecting a lot.
Demps is concentrating on track this spring, staying away from football where he knows his future lies. This time next year he'll probably be waiting to hear his name called during the NFL draft.
But there's one event which could put even that on hold.
"If I make the U.S. team to go to the Olympics (in London in August, 2012), I'll have a decision to make," he admitted. "That (opportunity) comes around only once."
But first there's this outdoor season and Penn. One thing about the Penn Relays which amazes most competitors is easier for Damps to handle. The crowds are nothing new to him, and he gives Franklin Field probably the greatest compliment a Gator can:
"It's like a football game at Florida," he said.
There's another current college football player who will be at this year's Penn Relays, though he won't be on the track. University of Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter will be competing in the long jump, and he is ranked fifth in the Championship of America start list. That means he's among the favorites to win the competition.
Via Twitter, conroyd1 sent over this montage of Hunter in action for the Volunteers: