Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Height, size and speed are three of the most basic common denominators transcending the walls of sport-specific performances and, at levels as high as Division I and the professional ranks, allowing players to span their natural gifts across multiple athletic endeavors. Jim Brown is the archetypical multi-sport figure, by most accounts the most dominant running back in professional history and an unfairly fast and strong lacrosse player in his own right. He is the measuring stick by which multi-sport predecessors are, well, measured, and basically everything since — Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson are more recent highlights — has fallen well short of Brown’s tremendous accomplishments. Whether because of kids’ general rushed identification of single-sport priorities – and growing pressures, partially or fully imposed by parents, to devote Gladwellian 10,000-hour practice requirements to a specific sport – or a broader recognition that playing two sports professionally is just really hard, the days of Brown-like dominance appear to be behind us.
Plenty of others have tried to make the leap, and the latest evidence comes by way of former Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway, who after not playing organized football since his sophomore year in high school signed a free agent contract this weekend with the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The motivation is plainly evident: Holloway is a big (6’7’’, 240 lbs.), fast and explosive athlete. He spent four years honing his hoop skills – curiously enough, Holloway played for the Rebels for two seasons, transferred to South Carolina for a redshirt year, then returned to Ole Miss to play out the second half of his eligibility scorecard – and after helping lead Marshall Henderson and co. to their first NCAA Tournament in more than a decade, the avenues for a professional basketball career apparently didn’t match the opportunity to join the United States’ most lucrative and nationally unimpeachable sports enterprise.