Marquise Goodwin’s mind really isn’t on touchdowns at the moment. A gold medal in Rio? Now, that would be quite a grab for a wide receiver who spends his free time doubling as a long jumper.
Instead of trying to outrun cornerbacks and avoid hard-hitting tacklers this summer, the Buffalo Bills wideout hopes to be sharing at least a sliver of the spotlight with Usain Bolt.
The 25-year-old from Texas fully intends to be a member of the U.S. track and field team heading to the Olympics in August. He has already alerted the Bills that he might not be available when the hitting starts at training camp.
If necessary, his track coach, 2004 Olympic long jump champion Dwight Phillips, is even willing to write a “please-let-Marquise-out-of-training-camp-early” note. Goodwin doesn’t think his football coach, Rex Ryan, will have any qualms.
Goodwin wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan showed up in the stands to watch the receiver/kick returner compete in what could be his second straight Olympics.
“That would be great,” Goodwin said in a phone interview. “Coach (Ryan) is all about making history.”
Four years ago, Goodwin finished 10th at the London Games.
This summer, he’s hoping to follow in a long line of pro football players who’ve come home with a medal from the Olympics _ Bob Hayes, Jim Thorpe, Milt Campbell, Michael Carter and Bo Roberson, to name a few.
Asked if he viewed himself as more of a receiver/kick returner than a long jumper _ or perhaps the reverse _ and Goodwin chuckled. Not only was he a deep threat and an electric kickoff returner for the University of Texas, he also was a two-time NCAA champion.
“I’m just an athlete,” said Goodwin, who was married last weekend to hurdler Morgan Snow. “I’m not labeled as one or the other. I’m not limited to running or jumping or catching footballs.”
As a teenager, Goodwin placed a photo of a certain athlete inside his locker for motivation. It wasn’t Jerry Rice or even Emmitt Smith, who was one of his favorites growing up.
No, this was a photo of Phillips, a four-time world champion who now oversees his training program.
“I wanted to compete against him and be like him and beat him,” Goodwin said.
Phillips knew early on that Goodwin was someone to keep an eye on.
At the 2009 U.S. championships, Phillips won the long jump with a leap of 28 feet, 1 1/2 inches (8.57 meters). But there was this teenager pushing him as Goodwin set the high school mark by jumping 26-10 (8.18 meters).
“He beat a lot of professionals that day, so I knew that he had great ability,” Phillips said. “I said I’m going to have him on my forecast over the next six to eight years, because I expect him to eventually win the Olympic gold.”
Imagine if Goodwin spent all his time training for the long jump. He can’t, though. He enjoys football too much _ even if it hasn’t been exactly kind to him in recent seasons.
Goodwin broke his ribs in a preseason game against Pittsburgh last year. When he returned, he hurt them again in a game against Cincinnati. Only he didn’t say anything at first. He tried to play through the pain.
“I have the track label on me. I’m the track guy,” said Goodwin, who ran a blazing 4.27-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine before being selected by Buffalo in the third round of the 2013 draft. “So I have to go above and beyond the expectations of what other people will limit their bodies to.”
Those ribs are healed now. It’s time to give the long jump his full attention.
See, during football season he’s “100 percent football.” Good thing his workouts actually do help out in track. Typically, he will go through speed drills, do some sled work and then lift. That all carries over to the sand pit.
Still, there’s no substitute for actual competition. Last summer at nationals, Goodwin competed again for the first time in nearly three years. Although rusty, he finished fourth and just missed out on making the world team for Beijing.
To get competition-sharp this winter, Goodwin is participating in a few indoor meets. He will take part in nationals next month in Portland, Oregon, hoping to qualify for world indoors.
Of course, his bigger goal is the Olympic Trials in July. To earn one of the three long-jump spots, Goodwin will probably need to leap about a yard short of a first down.
The Bills have been supportive of his long-jump endeavors. When Goodwin won a silver medal at the Pan Am Games in Toronto last July, his receivers coach was in the stands to cheer.
Ryan told the team’s website last summer that he wouldn’t be bothered should Goodwin miss time for an international meet such as the Olympics.
“Hopefully he gets an opportunity to represent our country in the Olympics,” Ryan said at the time. “That would be terrific.”
Goodwin appreciates the support.
“Coach trusts I’ll be ready to come back to football when I come back to football,” Goodwin said. “I’ll be ready to go when it’s time to go.”