AUSTIN, Texas — Texas junior Marquise Goodwin, the reigning U.S. champion in the long jump, insists he is hungry to get to the Olympics this summer and win a medal.
Some might question just how hungry considering he abandoned plans to train for the London Games for a full year in order to keep playing wide receiver for the Longhorns football team.
Goodwin says he was simply pursuing his love of football and couldn’t get away from the passion that comes from playing in front of 100,000 fans.
For the next few months, it’s all about London. And in case anyone needs reminding, it’s not like his side career in football stopped him from beating everyone in America before.
“I’ve got very high expectations,” Goodwin said Friday at the Texas Relays, where he is scheduled to jump Saturday in his first outdoor competition of the year.
Goodwin has long been considered a rising star in American track. He also was a standout football player, contributing a couple of big touchdowns for the Longhorns as a freshman in 2009 when Texas went 13-0 in the regular season before losing to Alabama in the BCS championship game.
On the track, Goodwin won the 2010 NCAA outdoor championship, then won the U.S. national championship last year with a personal-best jump of 27 feet, 4 inches. Then, with the World Championships in sight and the Olympics just a year away, Goodwin announced he would skip the 2011 football season to focus on track.
The move was a blow for a football team trying to recover from a 5-7 finish in 2010, but Goodwin got a public blessing from coach Mack Brown, who encouraged Goodwin to chase his Olympic dreams.
The World Championships in South Korea were a disappointment, and Goodwin failed to make the final by a centimeter. The misfire, and the relative anonymity and loneliness that came with competing in front of smaller crowds so far from home, left him longing to get back to Texas football.
“There’s not a lot of guys in the stands wearing burnt orange and cheering you on. My mom’s not in the stands yelling for me. It’s different,” Goodwin said. “It was a big learning experience for me.”
Three days after missing that final, he found himself following the Texas football team’s season-opening win against Rice via Twitter. The next morning, he texted Brown that he missed football. Brown said the team needed him and would welcome him back. Goodwin was back on the field the next week and caught two passes and returned a kickoff 40 yards in a 17-16 win against BYU.
“You only get one opportunity to do this,” to play both sports, Goodwin said. “I might as well take it.”
So instead of working on his jumps, Goodwin spent last fall on the football field and finished with 33 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns.
Texas track coach Bubba Thornton wasn’t surprised by Goodwin’s change of heart.
“I knew all along he’s going to miss the cigar smoke, the big crowds and the fight song. He’s going to die if he’s not out there,” Thornton said. “He’s been able to balance both. I think he has the stuff to do it.”
Goodwin insists he has enough time to prep for the Olympic Trials and expects he’ll have to jump at least as far as he did last summer to qualify for London.
This Saturday’s jump at the Texas Relays against a top collegiate field will be a good test of where he is. Goodwin finished second last year and he wants to win on his home track.
“Win this meet and set my eyes forward down the road,” Goodwin said. “I’m out here working extra hours, putting in extra work every day. I feel like nothing’s going to stop me.”