03:44 - Source: CNN
Can this NFL player jump his way to Rio 2016 gold?

Story highlights

Marquise Goodwin competes at the highest level in two sports

Plays for the Buffalo Bills in the NFL and competes for USA in the long jump

Heads to Rio 2016 as genuine gold medal contender after recording two longest jumps of 2016

Has recorded two longest jumps of 2016

CNN —  

Marquise Goodwin isn’t your average Olympian.

At the age of 25, the American has already experienced extreme highs and lows – in not just one sport, but two.

Goodwin heads to Brazil as a genuine gold medal contender in the long jump after recording the two longest jumps of 2016 and boasting a personal best of 8.45 meters, set in May.

But he’s not just good at leaping – in 2013 he swapped the sandpit for gridiron, putting his pace to an altogether different use by joining NFL franchise the Buffalo Bills as a wide receiver.

“I’ve always wanted to be a dual sports athlete,” Goodwin told CNN. “I never wanted to limit myself just to one thing, I always felt that if god blessed me with the abilities to do multiple things then why not?”

Double trouble

Goodwin has been a dual-sport athlete since his teens, becoming world junior long champion at 17 and then receiving an athletics scholarship to attend his home university of Texas – representing both the football and track and field teams.

Following early success in the long jump, a 20-year-old Goodwin landed on the world by winning the 2011 U.S. Outdoor Championship with a staggering jump of 8.33m – a leap that would have been good enough to win Olympic gold in London one year later.

However, the 2012 Games proved a bittersweet experience after Goodwin qualified for the final in second place only to fall away and finish a disappointing 10th. It’s a performance which haunts him to this day.

“2012, it’s given me emotion,” a teary-eyed Goodwin recalls. “Nobody wanted it more than I did. Nobody. I won’t let nobody take it away from me again.”

"I've always wanted to be a dual sports athlete," Marquise Goodwin told CNN.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
"I've always wanted to be a dual sports athlete," Marquise Goodwin told CNN.

It was after that chastening Olympic experience, that opportunity knocked with the NFL.

Showing his track talents, Goodwin posted the third-fastest 40-yard dash time ever of 4.25 seconds at an NFL scouting combine and his reward was a four-year contract with the Bills.

“Being an NFL player is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life,” said Goodwin.

“Being drafted has definitely been an honor,” he added, “being one of the few people in history to do both track and American football professionally. It’s been a tough, tough road and I’m just grateful that I get to be the guy that does it.”

Family ties

During his rookie NFL season, Goodwin played in 12 games but a broken rib hindered his progress during the 2015-16 campaign when he played just twice.

But while many athletes might lose heart, Goodwin finds inspiration from inside his own family – notably his sister Deja, who is 10 months younger than him and was born with cerebral palsy.

“She inspires me a lot, you know she’s my best friend,” he explains. “So seeing her in that predicament, hearing about how she’s not able to walk or participating in recreational things, it’s put me in a place mentally, where sometimes I don’t like to go but sometimes I need to because it makes me appreciate what I have.”

Second chance

The injury that curtailed his progress in the NFL gave Goodwin an opportunity to return to the long jump, driven by a desire to improve on his showing in London.

In May 2015, without telling his Bills teammates or coach Rex Ryan, he began to train and – with the help of 2004 Olympic champion Dwight Phillips – rediscovered his love of track and field.

With just weeks remaining until Rio 2016 kicks off, Marquise Goodwin has a genuine shot at gold.
Al Bello/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
With just weeks remaining until Rio 2016 kicks off, Marquise Goodwin has a genuine shot at gold.

Goodwin has been given permission by Ryan to take the summer off, but his NFL future is far from secure.

He has just one year left of his four-year contract with the Bills and will miss most of the team’s preseason training camp, putting his roster spot in jeopardy.

Goodwin, however, is unfazed. His focus is solely on his unfinished business in the long jump.

“It was always in my heart,” he said. “(I) never really thought about it and after losing in 2012, it kind of put me in a place where things weren’t complete yet. I didn’t complete the task that I set out to do.”

And after his world-leading jump, Goodwin is backing himself to top the podium in Rio despite being up against 2012 Olympic champion Greg Rutherford.

“I’m very confident in myself,”says Goodwin. “I like me in any situation, I train with the best, I train the hardest, no one trains harder than I do. Nobody wants it more than I do and I have to go out there and prove it.”

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