The Falcons' Julio Jones a couple of days back told the AJC’s Michael Cunningham that, with a little training, he could break 10 seconds in the 100-meter sprint. Teammate Robert Alford proclaimed that he still could slip back into track if he so desired and become an Olympian.
Of course, all that is just smoke and athletic conceit – some talk to fill the grinding hours of training camp. Who among us, the typical American sports fans, could even imagine a fellow countryman giving up the glamorous, all-ESPN-all-the-time world of professional football for the niche business of track and field?
It is the American mindset, for better or worse, to cast everything in a football context. Especially this time of year, as the sport begins to swallow us whole.
So, really, the proper question is not which of our NFL stars could make it in the Olympics. It’s which Olympians could make a better use of their time playing football?
You have to admit, watching Usain Bolt streak down the track, leaving the world behind with each magnificent stride, you said to yourself, “Man, if he had any hands at all they'd have to make him wear oven mitts to make it fair. Right there is the ultimate deep threat. Try to catch that, Josh Norman.”
He was not the only one who I dressed in pads in my imagination. Here are a few others (I’m sure you stumbled on a few of your own over the long course of the Games, while filling the time during the rhythmic gymnastics competition):
Swimmer Nathan Adrian. At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, built like a brick lifeguard stand, he towered over his relay teammates on the medal podium like a marlin among sardines. There’s my tight end.
Triple-jumper Christian Taylor. Don’t need three jumps. If the former Fayette County high schooler can give me just one of those leaps down near the end zone on fourth-and-goal, his job makes sense.
Swimmer Ryan Lochte. As quickly as he got out of Rio, just ahead of the law, he has to have a world-class first step. There’s a place somewhere in the NFL for that kind of burst.
LaShawn Merritt, 200 and 400 meters. Obviously, he has the speed to cause some havoc on either side of the ball. But here also is a guy who has the mental strength to persist in the hard world of football. If he can come back from a suspension for using an over-the-counter sexual-enhancement pill, getting beat on a post pattern wouldn’t leave so much as a scratch on his ego.
Decathlon champion Ashton Eaton. A do-everything guy who has quarterback written all over him (he also is the son and grandson of football players). He threw a javelin 65 yards. He should be able to do something with a leather prolate spheroid.
But there is more in this case. He is married to heptathlon bronze medalist Brianne Theisen. You’re going to want to sign their as yet unborn first male child to a free-agent deal, and roll the dice on those genetics.