Originally written June 25, 2013 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Is two sports too much? In a welcoming but somewhat confusing development, 6’7 football and basketball player Jalen Canty, class of 2014 from Oakland, has committed to Washington. The trouble is, for a while it wasn’t clear which sport he had committed for. Canty has since indicated he will play both sports for UW, in the mold of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Nate Robinson. Husky fans still have fond memories of Robinson intercepting a ball intended for the 6’6 Washington State University tight end Mike Bush in the fourth quarter of the 2002 Apple Cup. The Huskies drove and scored to force overtime, and Robinson’s legend as a multi-sport athlete was born. But how common, really, are multi-sport athletes at Washington? To help predict the future focus of Jalen Canty, let’s examine past notable dual-sport athletes at UW. More common than you think Once upon a time, athletes competing in two or even three sports for UW, and seeing high levels of success in multiple sports wasn’t rare. In the 1920s Herman Brix starred at tackle for multiple Rose Bowl teams, while also literally setting shot-put world records. In the 1940s Ray Frankowski was an All-American guard on the football team, wrestling conference champion, and a member of the fencing team. ASJ was the latest Husky to attempt the two-sport status And older Husky fans might remember Reggie Rogers from the 1980s where he played for back to back conference champion basketball teams and was later a First-Team All-American football player. But that was then, this is now But times have changed. Every year, collegiate sports get more and more competitive, physically and mentally. The physical demands and time constraints of playing multiple sports at the Division One level is usually too much for most athletes. If Canty suits up for Lorenzo Romar and Steve Sarkisian, he will be only the fourth player since 1984 to do so. And all four of those players (ASJ, Robinson, Reggie Rogers, and Charles Frederick) all eventually quit one sport to concentrate on the other. Of the two most recent athletes to double up on the court and the gridiron, Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t a huge contributor on the basketball court, offering little more than five fouls and an inside presence. That’s not to say he couldn’t improve and thrive at the college level (he was a high school basketball standout) but his natural abilities clearly pale in comparison to his prodigious skills at tight end. Nate Robinson originally came to Washington on a football scholarship, and was a star in both sports, but elected to focus on basketball, a decision that has clearly paid off. Division One basketball and football are simply too competitive to focus on at the same time, and it makes sense for an athlete to commit his time to the sport he’s more talented in. However, that isn’t to say playing football and a sport other than basketball is impossible. Kasen Williams, Danny Shelton and Gregory Ducre have found a way to occupy themselves in the offseason: Suiting up to compete in track and field for the Huskies. All three have been notably successful. But it’s clear the sport is something they do as a second banana. Relatively little is known about Jalen Canty yet, but it’s a safe assumption that he’ll wind up focusing on one sport. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE HUSKIES CLUBHOUSE PAGE AT NWSPORTSBEAT!
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