Record number of NFL players could compete at Rio Olympics
In Olympic history, one athlete with prior NFL regular-season experience is believed to have competed at the Games -- Herschel Walker in bobsled at the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics.
That number will very likely increase this summer.
At least five athletes who have played in the NFL are in the mix for Olympic spots between two sports -- track and field and rugby.
If all five make it to the Olympics, they will break the record for NFL players at one Olympics, believed by Olympic historians to be the four at the Rome 1960 Games.
All four of those 1960 athletes, and all other NFL Olympians other than Walker, competed at the Games before they became NFL players.
Which makes this year’s crop all the more special:
Buffalo Bills wide receiver/long jumper Marquise Goodwin is the likeliest to qualify for Rio. He finished 10th at the London 2012 Games before playing in the NFL, took nearly three years off from long jumping and returned last year.
On Saturday, Goodwin leaped 8.45 meters, the farthest in the world this year. Goodwin will make his second Olympic team if he finishes in the top three at the U.S. Olympic Trials on July 3 in Eugene, Ore.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts return specialist Jeff Demps could also make his second Olympic track and field team. Demps, a 4x100m relay member in London, is sprinting for the first time in three years.
Demps ranks tied for seventh among U.S. men in the 100m this year. It’s likely the top six at the U.S. Olympic Trials, also on July 3, will be named to the Olympic 4x100m relay pool.
Then there’s former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best, who is reportedly trying to make the Saint Lucia Olympic track and field team in the 100m. Best’s status is complicated by a citizenship process.
In rugby, New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner is going for the U.S. Olympic team. It was reported last month the head coach said Ebner had a “50-50” chance of making it.
A key will be whether Ebner is named to the 12-man U.S. team for this week’s World Series final leg in London. The Olympic team, which will be named some time after London, will also be 12 men.
Finally on Sunday, San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne announced his abrupt retirement from the NFL to pursue a place on Fiji’s Olympic rugby team.
That news was stunning, given Fiji is about to clinch its second straight World Series title and doesn’t appear to be in need of outside help given its World Series success.