Olympic track & field: College football players chase their dreams of becoming U.S. Olympians
You’ll hear it a few times per game on your typical football broadcast. “This guy has world-class speed.” The point is usually well taken, but often times, it’s hyperbole.
Except when it’s not. Three college football players recently competed or are set to compete in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Their results are varied (and one is still yet to come), but regardless of the outcome, these guys have an awful lot to be proud of.
Let’s take a brief look at each athlete’s story.
Adoree Jackson, USC
Jackson is dazzling to watch as a football player. The receiver/cornerback/kick returner does it all for the Trojans, and when a guy has such a high caliber of talent, his stats may not do the talking. It’s all about the highlights:
The USC rising junior is also a track star for the Trojans. In 2015, Jackson won the Pac-12 conference title in the long jump and finished fifth at the NCAA championships. His performance dipped a bit in the 2016 championships, but his 2015 jump was long enough to qualify for Olympic trials.
In order to get to Rio, Jackson needed to jump 26-8 4/5 and finish in the top three of last weekend’s trials. He ultimately fell short, but everyone in Trojan Nation is proud of one of their greatest athletes. That includes his football coach, who allowed Jackson to skip spring practice in pursuit of his dream.
"I've always believed if you're going to be a master at something, you've got to work at it — and don't be a jack of all trades," Clay Helton said in December. "When you get the opportunity to go work for the Olympics, you need to go work at that."
One thing is almost certain: whichever athletic endeavor Jackson decides to pursue in the future, he has a great chance to succeed. And he’s shown nothing but class along the way.
No lie it hurts, perks of being a competitor is you hate losing. Props to the 3Qualifiers today though. Salute and God Bless Y'all in Rio— Adoree' Jackson (@AdoreeKnows) July 4, 2016
Tim White, Arizona State
White emerged as a viable weapon in the Arizona State passing offense in 2015. In his first season with the Sun Devils, the speedster hauled in 57 receptions for 633 yards and eight touchdowns. By the end of the year, he was one of the best deep threats in college football.
White doubles as a track star, as well. His event is the triple jump.
White made noise in the latter portion of ASU’s track season. His first meet of the season was at the Pac-12 Championships, where he placed second in the triple jump. In his next meet at the West Regional, he placed first with a jump of 53-11. He then came in fourth at the NCAA championships.
Like Jackson, White qualified for Olympic trials, but fell just a hair short of Rio. Also like Jackson, White exhibited nothing but class along the way.
“You know, growing up, this is what I wanted to do. I just want to compete in track and compete in football at the Division I level,” White said. “Coming from where I came from, this is a true blessing to me.”
Unfortunately things didn't go my way. I will still keep my head held high. I thank everyone for their support. pic.twitter.com/cpq0Zf9dby— Tim White (@tim_white6) July 8, 2016
By the sound of things, White has a very healthy perspective on all of this.
“Everybody has hard times, and everybody has their problems, but everything is all positive with me,” White said. “With everything I have been through, it puts it all in a positive light, and without it, I would not still be here competing for the Sun Devils in track and football.”
It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch White on the gridiron and on the track in 2016-17.
Devon Allen, Oregon
Oregon football is a factory of speed these days, but perhaps nobody that’s come through Eugene has had wheels like Allen.
A wide receiver on the Ducks, Allen made a big impact as a freshman before his playing time dipped as a sophomore due to injury. He tore his ACL in the 2015 Rose Bowl, but now, he’s looking speedier than ever. On the track, he’s flourished.
During the summer of 2014, at the age of 19, Allen won the 110 meter hurdles at the USATF outdoors with a jaw-dropping time of 13.16 seconds. The second and third place finishers were more than a decade older than him.
“He's very mature for being 21 years old, I think,” Oregon football coach Mark Helfrich said. “If you look at the age of the other competitors in the hurdles and certainly the guys he'll be going against, they're 30 years old and much more experienced guys, but he is one of those, whatever that phrase is, wise beyond your years type of guys.”
On Friday night at Hayward Field, two miles away from where he plays football for the Ducks, Allen will partake in his first U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. He won his second NCAA championship in the 110 meter hurdles at Hayward in June, and he’s hoping for similar success at the Olympic trials.
“His No. 1 goal right now is to go the Olympics,” Matt Lubick, Oregon’s offensive coordinator, said. “Whenever we can get him back, we’ll be jacked, but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The world of college athletics is wishing Allen the best of luck.