A Little Know-Howe: Taking a Deeper Look into Athletes Excelling at More than One Sport

By Brad Howe on June 09, 2018 from A Little Know-Howe via Connect-Bridgeport.com

A couple of stories with a common thread caught my attention this week.
 
The first: Kyler Murray, the likely starting quarterback at Oklahoma this fall, was selected in the top 10 of the Major League Baseball draft and stands to receive a signing bonus of $4.68 million.
 
More on that coming up.
 
Secondly: baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz qualified for the Senior US Open golf event.
 
If you're interested in hearing more about Smotz's journey to the US Open, here's a podcast from Golf Digest in which he details his journey:  CLICK HERE.
 
Both achievements are pretty remarkable when you stop and think about it.
 
It's hard enough to be elite in one sport, let alone two.
 
The Smoltz story was particularly fascinating to me.
 
Smoltz was one of the very best starting pitchers of his generation. He started 481 games in his major league career.
 
After 12 years as he starter, he switched to the closer role in the early 2000s and put up back-to-back-to-back years in which he saved 55, 45 and 44 games respectively.
 
And then jumped back to the starting rotation for the final seven years of his career.
 
Eight time All-Star, Cy Young award winner, World Series Champion and Hall of Famer.
 
Given the fact Smoltz was able to move so successfully between starter and closer and back again should have been our indication that he wasn't done achieving great things just because his baseball career had ended.
 
He has taken that major league experience and has become one best tv analysts in any sport right now.
 
Throw in qualifying for the US Senior Open and you’ve got a guy that has been/is elite at three different things. Very few people in the world excel at one in their lifetimes, let alone three.
 
Count me as someone who will be keeping an eye on him as he looks to win a golf major here in a few weeks.
Murray is of interest to me for how he relates to WVU’s chances of winning a Big 12 football title this season.
 
It sounds as if Murray intends to play football this year for the Sooners before embarking on that pro baseball career.
 
Mountaineer fans have already seen Kyler Murray in a game and it wasn’t pretty for West Virginia.
 
In the final regular season game last season, Murray got the start in place of the suspended Baker Mayfield. He promptly scampered 66 yards on his first play of the game. Oklahoma's Rodney Anderson punched it in from the four yard line on the very next play.
 
Two plays, 70 yards, one touchdown and he was done for the day. It was Mayfield from there as the Sooners beat West Virginia 59-31.
 
With Murray at quarterback, many in the national media will tab the Sooners as the preseason Big 12 favorite.
 
Can Murray step in and fill the enormous shoes of Baker Mayfield? Can he lead OU to another Big 12 title?
 
It will be interesting to watch him on the football field this fall and then check in over the next few years and see if he is able to live up to the expectations that will placed on the ninth overall pick in the MLB draft.
 
Murray is not alone in his pursuit of two sports at the college level, but we don’t see athletes attempt it very often.
 
The time constraints and demands of division one sports makes it difficult to play multiple sports.
 
Who are some others we've seen do it in the last two decades?
 
There have been a few over the past 25 years at WVU.
 
Freshman quarterback Trey Lowe is one current player giving it a shot right now in Morgantown.
 
Lowe arrived on campus in January and played on the WVU baseball team while also preparing for the upcoming football season.
 
Darrel Whitmore pulled the same double duty back at WVU in the late 80's and went on to a professional baseball career.
 
Jarret Brown was the starting quarterback for a year and a reserve for Bob Huggins on the WVU basketball team.
 
One of the best WVU athletes of the last two decades, Kristin Quackenbush excelled in two sports.
 
She was an all american gymnast who won the national gymnast of the year in 1997 and then competed in the pole vault for West Virginia once her gymnastics eligibility had expired.
 
She was so good at the pole vault she became an all american in that sport as well and qualified for the Olympic Trials during her one year competing in the sport.
 
James Jett was a two sport standout at West Virginia in the late 80’s in football and track.
 
He then went on to win a gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in track and played 10 seasons in the NFL.
 
At the prep level here in West Virginia we still see a fair number of athletes play and excel at multiple sports.
 
Last weekend I had the chance to be part of the Metronews broadcast team for the state high school baseball tournament.
 
I can’t back this up with any data, but I would be willing to bet more kids than not on those state tournament teams play more than one sport.
 
Martinsburg’s Grant Harman is one that jumped out.
 
Harman was a starter (and all-stater) on the Bulldogs state title-winning football team in the fall, the starting point guard on the state runner-up basketball team and starting shortstop on the baseball team that made it to Charleston. Harman was named honorable mention all state in baseball earlier this week.
 
Bridgeport’s Koby Kiefer is another athlete who found success in multiple sports.
 
Kiefer was an all-state punter on the Bridgeport football team and is headed to Cornell to continue his education and football career.
 
But last weekend he wasn’t thinking about football. Kiefer was not only the starting second baseman for the Indians, but came in to pitch during the state championship game.
 
Kiefer was credited with the win in the state title game as the Indians stormed back from a four run late inning deficit to claim a fifth consecutive baseball state championship.
 
Kiefer was named a first team all state infielder earlier this week.
 
I named a few WVU dual sport athletes above. Who else can had a great career in two sports at West Virginia? Leave a comment below or shoot me a tweet: @BradHowe07.
 
Editor's Note: Smoltz picture courtesy of sportingnews.com, Murray photo courtesy of newsok.com, and Kiefer photo courtesy of Ben Queen of benqueenphotography.com



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