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Kansas City Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill Dreams Of Joining Lengthy List Of NFL Players Who Are Also Olympians

By Karen Rosen | Feb. 03, 2020, 4:30 p.m. (ET)

Tyreek Hill runs with the ball for the Kansas City Chiefs at Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2, 2020 in Miami.


Now that Tyreek Hill has his Super Bowl ring, will the Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver reach for the Olympic rings?

On Super Bowl media day, Hill said he’d looked into what it would take to qualify for Team USA as a sprinter at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“Hopefully after this season, if I’m healthy and my mind is still in the right place, I really want to try to qualify for some Olympic teams,” said Hill, who earned the nickname “Cheetah” and uses @cheetah as his Twitter handle.

“Even go to Penn Relays (in April), give that a try,” he added. “Get a few guys off the (football) team, put a relay together and show these track guys, ‘Hey, football guys, hey, we used to do this back in high school, man. We still got it.’ I just want to have fun with it.”

Hill has worn Team USA on his chest before: At the world junior championships in 2012 in Barcelona, Spain, Hill won the gold medal on the 4x100-meter team and the bronze in the 200-meter.

“I hear a lot of people saying I can’t do it,” Hill tweeted in reference to a story about his Olympic aspirations, “but they also said I couldn’t make it in the NFL.”

If he makes it to the Olympic Games, Hill would be the 47th NFL player to also participate in the Games, although the more common trajectory is Olympics first, then pro football. After all, some of the early NFL players came from the Olympic Games with nicknames like “Brick,” “Jumbo” and “The Kansas Whirlwind” and were decathletes known as “The World’s Greatest Athlete.”

There have been 36 Olympians/NFL players from the sport of track and field, six from wrestling, two from bobsled, one from rugby and one from team handball. All but two players have represented Team USA and nearly half have won at least one Olympic medal prior to their NFL careers.

Only one player, “Bullet” Bob Hayes, has won both the Super Bowl (with the Dallas Cowboys in 1972) and the Olympics (winning gold medals in the 100-meter and 4x100 in 1964).

However, Michael Carter, who won a silver medal in the shot put in 1984, won three Super Bowl rings in a long career (1984-92) as a noseguard with the San Francisco 49ers. He was the first man to win an Olympic medal and Super Bowl ring in the same season. He also has the distinction of having a daughter, Michelle Carter, win a gold medal for Team USA in the shot put in 2016.

Nate Ebner, who played rugby for Team USA in Rio in 2016, also has three Super Bowl rings as a defensive back/special teams player for the New England Patriots.

Ebner and Herschel Walker, the great running back turned 1992 Albertville bobsledder, are the only Olympians to compete in the NFL before and after their Olympics. Walker played for the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings (before) and Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants (after). Walker was the push athlete for Brian Shimer and they placed seventh.

Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best raced the 100 for Saint Lucia (the land of his father), in Rio. However, he had not played pro football for a few years due to concussions and it was easier to make the team for Saint Lucia than for the talent-packed United States.

The other non-Team USA athlete was Colin Ridgeway of Australia, a high jumper at the 1956 Olympic Games. He was recruited by the Dallas Cowboys in 1965 as a punter and was the first Australian to play in the NFL.

And the lone team handball athlete is Randy Dean, a 1976 Olympian chosen by the New York Giants in the fifth round of 1977 NFL draft. He played for three seasons, starting three games with one career touchdown pass.

Work Cut Out For Him

Hill, who is in his fourth year in the league, was the top receiver for the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, catching nine passes for 105 yards.

He admits that his body is a lot different than it was when he ran a wind-aided 9.9.

“But the thing is, I weigh like 195 right now,” he said. “Back in high school, when I ran a 9.9, I was like 175,” he said. “If I do it, it would be me changing my whole diet, changing everything that I’ve been doing to get to this point where I am now.”

Hill won’t have much time to savor his football victory.

He must run 20.24 seconds in the 200 (or 10.05 in the 100) by June 7 to meet the automatic qualifying times for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field, which will be held in Eugene, Oregon, in late June.

He has never run in the trials. Although he posted a time of 20.14 seconds in the 200 at age 18 – the sixth-best time in the U.S. in 2012 – Hill opted to run in the world junior championships instead of the trials for London.

Ato Boldon, the four-time Olympic medalist and NBC commentator, tweeted that while he believes Hill is the fastest man in the NFL, making the Olympics is “a long shot.” “NFL season wreaks havoc on a body,” Boldon added. “NFL season that extends through the playoffs to the Super Bowl makes it even worse… I'm wondering if just qualifying for trials is possible.”

Faster Than A Speeding…
Bob Hayes competes in the Men's 100-meter at the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964 in Tokyo.


“Bullet Bob” Hayes was such an overwhelming favorite for the Tokyo 1964 Games that President Lyndon B. Johnson tried to get him excused from football so nothing would happen to him.

In his last interview before he died in 2002, Hayes told the Times-Union in Jacksonville, Florida, that President Johnson called his college coach Jake Gaither.

“President Johnson said, “We need Bob Hayes and if he plays football this year he just might get hurt, and if he gets hurt we’ll be out of a gold medal.”

“Jake Gaither said, ‘Mr. President, let me tell you something. I carried this boy for four years. I know. I guarantee he won’t get hurt.’ The president said, ‘Well, how can you guarantee me this?’ He said, ‘Cause Bob Hayes, he’s a football player. He just happens to be the world’s fastest human.’”

Hayes entered the Olympics with a record of 48 finals victories at 100 yards or 100 meters. Although he ran a wind-aided 9.9 seconds in the semifinals, Hayes was placed in the worst lane on the track: the inside lane, which had been chewed up by the 20-kilometer race walkers. To make matters worse, he was on borrowed spikes after accidentally kicking one of his shoes under the bed and failing to notice it wasn’t in his bag. He still won by more than 2 meters.

In the 4x100-meter, Hayes ran the anchor leg, grabbing the baton in fifth place. He ran what has been called the greatest leg of all time, hand-timed as low as 8.5 seconds. He caught Jamaica, Russia, Poland and France for the victory.

Hayes made an immediate impact in the NFL, leading the league in receptions his first two seasons with more than 1,000 yards. He was so fast he forced opposing teams to create zone defenses to try to contain him.

Hayes played in two straight Super Bowls, losing the first and winning the second, 24-3 over Miami. He was a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time All Pro and ended his career with 371 receptions and 71 touchdowns.

A Jacksonville high school coach said the kids around town would say that they would “Do the Hayes on you,” which meant that they were going to beat you in a race.

All That Glitters Is Not NFL Material
Jim Hines (gold) competes in the Men's 100-meter at the Olympic Games Mexico City 1968 in October 1968 in Mexico City. 


Four years after Hayes won the gold, Jim Hines of Team USA was the first man to go under 10 seconds in winning the Olympic title. He clocked 9.95 seconds at altitude in Mexico City.

Hines was signed as a wide receiver by the Miami Dolphins from 1968 to 1969, but received the nickname “Oops” in the locker room for his receiving skills, or lack thereof. He played 10 games for the Dolphins and also played briefly for the Kansas City Chiefs, appearing in one game.

Tommie Smith, who had both height (6-foot-3) and foot speed, was drafted in the ninth round in 1967 by the Los Angeles Rams, but opted to go to the 1968 Olympics instead. Smith won the 200 and was part of the controversial “Black Power” podium demonstration. He was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1969, but was on the taxi squad for most of his three seasons as a wide receiver. He caught one pass for 41 yards in 1969.

Holding Off Pro Contract For Olympics

Ollie Matson was the top collegiate ball carrier his senior year at the University of San Francisco with 1,566 yards. He led the NCAA in scoring and rushing and was a first-team All-American for the 9-0 Dons. However, he wanted to compete at the Olympic Games and won a bronze medal in the 400-meter and the silver as part of the 4x400 team at the Helsinki 1952 Games. Only then did Matson sign a contract with the Chicago Cardinals. He was co-rookie of the year, then spent 1953 in the U.S. Army, where he played football.

The Los Angeles Rams traded nine players for Matson, who also played for the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles.

He was a six-time Pro Bowler and MVP of the 1955 Pro Bowl. When he retired after 14 years with 12,799 all-purpose yards, only Jim Brown had more. However, Matson never played in the Super Bowl, which began the year he retired (1966 season).

Other Olympic medalists who had substantial pro football careers include John “Jack” Spellman (wrestling gold medalist in 1924 who played eight years in the NFL for the Providence Steam Rollers and Boston Braves), Henry Carr (gold in 200 meter and 4x400 in 1964 who played 37 games at defensive back for the New York Giants), Michael Bates (bronze medal in the 200 in 1992 and played for six teams from 1993-2003) and Ron Brown (gold medal in 4x100 relay in 1984 and played for the Los Angeles Rams and Raiders from 1984 to 1990).

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Most Recent Players
Nate Ebner looks on during a game against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 29, 2019 in Foxborough, Mass. 


Besides Ebner, the most recent athletes to go from Olympic Games to the NFL or vice versa are Marquise Goodwin and Johnny Quinn.

Goodwin was a two-sport athlete at the University of Texas. He won the 2011 national championship in the long jump and was also the Olympic trials champion with a career-best 8.33 meters. However, he was disappointed with his 10th-place finish at the London Games. After signing with the Buffalo Bills in 2013, Goodwin attempted a track comeback. He just missed qualifying for the 2015 world championships and won the silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games. He was seventh at the 2016 trials, failing to match his best jumps of the season.

Johnny Quinn competed at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 as a push athlete on the bobsled team.

He played for North Texas in college and was signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2007, but was cut three days before training camp. In 2008, Quinn played four preseason games for the Green Bay Packers, catching four passes for 32 yards before being cut. He went on to play wide receiver for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, tearing his ACL in the last game of the regular season.

The Greatest

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NFL in 2020, one of the greatest Olympians of all time, Jim Thorpe, was a player on one of the first teams. He joined the Canton Bulldogs in 1915, winning three championships, and remained with the team when it became part of the league that would become the NFL.

Thorpe also played for the Cleveland Indians, Oorang Indians, Rock Island Independents, New York Giants and Chicago Cardinals throughout the 1920s.

Thorpe won the decathlon and pentathlon at the  Stockholm 1912 Games, but was stripped of his gold medals when the International Olympic Committee said he had broken amateurism rules by playing professional baseball in 1910 and 1911. It didn’t matter that the competition was at a low level.

Thorpe was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, and in 1983, after a fierce campaign by some of his children, the IOC restored Thorpe’s Olympic medals.

The Almosts
Willie Gault runs with the ball in a game against the Green Bay Packer on Nov. 11, 1990 in Los Angeles.


Renaldo Nehemiah, former world record holder in the 110-meter hurdles, and Willie Gault, also a 110-meter hurdler and sprinter, did not compete at the 1980 Olympic Games because of the U.S. boycott. Nehemiah did win the trials in the hurdles while Gault was fifth in the 100 and would have made the relay team.

Although Nehemiah never played football in college, he was signed as a wide receiver by the San Francisco 49ers and played for three years. He was a part of the team that won Super Bowl XIX. After the 49ers signed Jerry Rice, Nehemiah returned to track and field.

Gault played in the NFL for 11 seasons as a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and was part of the team that won Super Bowl XX. He also played for the Los Angeles Raiders. In 1988, Gault was a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic team as an alternate for two-man bobsled. He practiced, but did not compete. However, he did introduce the sport to Walker and to Edwin Moses, the Olympic gold medalist in the 400-meter hurdles who competed for the U.S. bobsled team but did not make it to the Olympics.

James Trapp was an alternate for the 4x100 team at the Barcelona 1992 Games and had a 10-year NFL career, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000.

James Jett, who did win a gold medal on the 1992 relay, played 10 years with the Raiders, but lost in his only Super Bowl appearance in 2003. He ended his career as the eighth-leading receiver in team history.

Related Athletes

head shot

Nate Ebner