8 of The NFL’s First 9 Draft Picks Were Track and Field Athletes In High School – How Good Could the First-Round Picks in the 2017 NFL Draft Have Been Had They Stuck With Track & Field?

By Jonathan Gault
April 28, 2017

The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books, with 32 men set to become millionaires when they begin their professional football careers this fall.

But many of these guys didn’t just dominate on the football field. 8 of the top 9 picks (88.9%) and at least 19 of the 32 in the first round (59.4%) were also track and field athletes in high school. The NFL, more than any professional league, has a long history of players who also doubled as incredible track & field athletes in a variety of events, from Bob Hayes (1964 Olympic gold in 100) to Michael Carter (1984 Olympic silver in shot put) to Renaldo Nehemiah (first human to break 13 seconds in the 110 hurdles).

Below, we take a look at the 32 first-round selections from this year’s draft. Did any of them have Olympic potential? With the money as big as it is now, we certainly don’t expect any of them to balance football with track and field, but hey, you never know (Marquise Goodwin anyone?).

Pick 1, Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, defensive end, Texas A&M

Garrett comes from a family of great athletes. His brother, Sean Williams, played five seasons in the NBA, but his older sister Brea was the track star as she was the 2014 NCAA champion in the weight throw at Texas A&M. As for Myles, he only competed sparingly in track & field at Marlin High School in Arlington, Texas, but he logged solid personal bests of 52-4 in the shot put and 166-7 in the discus.

Pick 2, Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky, quarterback, North Carolina

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No track & field background.

Pick 3, San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas, defensive end, Stanford

Thomas didn’t have much success as a thrower at Coppell (Texas) High School, recording a PR of 44-11.75, but if his Athletic.net profile is to be believed, he was an impressive distance runner for his size. The now 6-8, 273-pound Thomas is listed as having run 4:46 for the 1600 and 10:09 for the 3200 as a junior.

Pick 4, Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, running back, Louisiana State

Fournette ran personal bests of 6.55 (indoor 55-meter dash) and 21.78 (200) at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans and anchored St. Augustine to a Louisiana 4A state title in the 4×100 in 2013.

Pick 5, Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, wide receiver, Western Michigan

Davis, the all-time NCAA FBS leader in receiving yards, ran track at Wheaton Warrenville South (Ill.) High School, but his personal bests were modest: 6.64 in the indoor 55, 53.56 in the 400 and 21-0 in the long jump.

Pick 6, New York Jets: Jamal Adams, safety, Louisiana State

Adams ran personal bests of 10.89 and 21.94 at Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas, but was not able to qualify for the state meet in the tough 5A division.

Pick 7, Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, wide receiver, Clemson

Athletic.net only lists one season for Williams, but that one season went pretty well: he jumped 6-6 to win the South Carolina 3A state title in the high jump as a junior at Lake Marion High School.

Pick 8, Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, running back, Stanford

It’s a well-known fact that Christian is the son of Ed McCaffrey, a former NFL wide receiver who won three Super Bowl rings with the 49ers and Broncos. But Christian actually gets his speed from his mother’s side, as his maternal grandfather is Dave Sime, who broke or tied nine world records duing his career as a sprinter/hurdler, according to the New York Times. Sime earned Olympic silver over 100 meters in 1960 and was also in line to earn a gold as anchor of the 4×100 relay but the U.S. was DQ’d for passing outside of the handoff zone. Some things never change.

As for Christian’s own career, he ran PRs of 10.89 and 22.17 at Valor Christian High School in Colorado. His best finish at the Colorado 4A state meet was sixth in the 100 as a senior.

MB: Christian McCaffrey’s grandfather was a former world record holder at 100m and the 1960 Olympic silver medallist

Pick 9, Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross, wide receiver, Washington

Ross, who broke the NFL Combine record in the 40-yard dash this year (4.22), never ran at the California state meet while at Jordan High School in Long Beach, though he did clock personal bests of 10.66 and 21.56. Given his blazing 40 time, he could have been a factor at NCAAs in the 60 had he suited up for the Huskies’ track team.

Pick 10, Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech

No track & field background.

Pick 11, New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore, cornerback, Ohio State

Lattimore went to Glenville High School in Cleveland, where he ran track under fabled coach Ted Ginn, Sr. Lattimore’s best time was 11.84 in the 100.

Pick 12, Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson

No track & field results that we can find but TrackingFootball.com says he competed.

Pick 13, Arizona Cardinals: Haason Reddick, linebacker, Temple

No track & field background.

Pick 14, Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett, defensive end, Tennessee

Barnett, who attended Brentwood Academy in Nashville, finished 3rd at the Tennessee Division II state champs in the discus and 4th in the shot put in 2014. He threw PRs of 154-10 (discus) and 54-5 (shot put).

Pick 15, Indianapolis Colts: Malik Hooker, safety, Ohio State

No track & field background.

Pick 16, Baltimore Ravens: Marlon Humphrey, cornerback, Alabama

Humphrey was a legitimate track star in high school. As a junior at Hoover (Ala.) High School, he ran 13.24 in the 110 hurdles (36-inch barriers) into a -1.1 m/s headwind to take silver at the World Youth Championships in 2013. He also won the 400 hurdles at New Balance Nationals that year, running 50.25 (33-inch barriers) and made it to the final at World Youths, though he had to miss the final due to injury.

Humphrey ran track during his freshman year at Alabama, running 55.56 in the 400 hurdles at SECs and running on their 4×400 relay at NCAAs, but gave it up to focus on his football career.

Pick 17, Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, defensive end, Alabama

No track & field results that we can find but TrackingFootball.com says he was a track athlete in HS.

Pick 18, Tennessee Titans: Adoree’ Jackson, cornerback, Southern California

Jackson ran 10.89 and 21.59 at Junípero Serra High School in Gardena, Calif., but it was in the long jump that he truly excelled. Jackson jumped 25-5.25 as a senior, the second-longest jump in the country in 2014. He ran on the track team both of his springs at USC and found great success, twice finishing 5th at NCAAs in the long jump. He was 10th in the long jump at last year’s Olympic Trials and also found success in the 100, finishing 2nd at Pac-12s last year in 10.44. He also teamed up with Andre De Grasse to help the Trojans finish 4th in the 4×100 at NCAAs in 2015.

Pick 19, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, tight end, Alabama

No track & field background.

Pick 20, Denver Broncos: Garrett Bolles, offensive tackle, Utah

No track & field background.

Pick 21, Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, linebacker, Florida

No track & field background.

Pick 22, Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, defensive end, Missouri

Harris had a limited track & field career at Lincoln College Prep in Kansas City. His Athletic.net page lists PRs for the 100 (12.54), discus (84-10) and shot put (35-7), but none of them are impressive.

Pick 23, New York Giants: Evan Engram, tight end, Mississippi

No track & field background.

Pick 24, Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley, cornerback, Ohio State

Conley enjoyed modest success at Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio, running PRs of 11.22, 22.65, 49.98 on the track in addition to long jumping 21-7.5.

Pick 25, Cleveland Browns: Jabrill Peppers, safety, Michigan

Peppers played safety, running back and punt/kick returner in Ann Arbor, and his versatility extended off the football field. As a high schooler at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, he swept the 100 and 200 at the New Jersey state meet in 2013 and 2014. His high school PRs were 10.51 and 21.13.

Pick 26, Atlanta Falcons: Takkarist McKinley, linebacker, UCLA

McKinley, who now stands 6-2, 250 pounds, runs extremely well for his size. At Kennedy High School in Richmond, Calif., he ran 10.58 at the California state meet in 2012 and 21.58 into a 1.0 m/s headwind the following year.

Pick 27, Buffalo Bills: Tre’Davious Wright, cornerback, Louisiana State

No track & field background.

Pick 28, Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, defensive end, Michigan

No track & field background.

Pick 29, Cleveland Browns: David Njoku, tight end, Miami

Njoku won the national title in the high jump at the 2014 New Balance Nationals and recorded a best of 7-1 in high school. He competed in track at Miami in 2015 and 2016, taking 6th at ACC Indoors in 2015 and 8th in 2016.

Pick 30, Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt, linebacker, Wisconsin

Watt, younger brother of defensive lineman/superhero J.J. Watt of the Texans, was an exceptional thrower at Pewaukee (Wis.) High School, earning PRs of 60-2 in the shot put and 161-0 in the discus. He won the former event at the Wisconsin Division II state championships in 2013. Both J.J. and middle brother Derek also won shot put state titles at Pewaukee, but T.J. owns the school record — which used to be held by the boys’ father, John.

Pick 31, San Francisco 49ers: Reuben Foster, linebacker, Alabama

We can’t find any results from him in HS but saw some reference to the fact he may have been a thrower.

Pick 32, New Orleans Saints: Ryan Ramczyk, offensive tackle, Wisconsin

No track & field background, though he did go to the same high school as Chris Solinsky and Suzy Favor Hamilton.


LRC analysis: Both Marlon Humphrey and Adoree’ Jackson are clearly monster talents and we imagine they could have gone onto professional track careers had they been so inclined. John Ross, Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku also posted some pretty impressive performances in high school and it would have been interesting to see what they could have accomplished had they dedicated themselves to track & field in college.

We’d also be mighty impressed if Solomon Thomas actually ran 10:09 for 3200 meters.

In all, 19 of the 32 first-round picks competed in track & field in high school. Almost every position was represented, though it’s worth noting that none of the three quarterbacks selected ran track (perhaps because the QB skillset is so specialized that track wouldn’t help much), nor did either of the offensive linemen.

Talk about this article on our fan forum / messageboard. MB: 8 of the top 9 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft were track and field athletes in HS, how good could they have been?

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