From the Hardwood to the Gridiron

On the first day that the football team practiced in pads, all the talk in spring practice was on the basketball player who was wearing shorts and held out of contact drills. Jason Braxton and Dirk Koetter talked about the possible career move of the former Sun Devil point guard.

"I contacted him Tuesday afternoon after practice," said Koetter on approaching Jason Braxton. "I talked to Rob Evans; I talked to Jason's uncle who has two sons paying football…I asked Jason to sleep on it and he decided to give it a shot."

The notion to invite the point guard to the football team is one that the ASU coach has entertained for a while. "I've followed Jason in the four years I've been here and I always loved his athleticism," Koetter explained. "I always thought in the back of my mind that he would make a good football player because of his speed, his quickness, his toughness, his competitiveness. He hasn't played in a long time…he's graduating in May, so he has nothing to lose but three weeks. If he has a chance to play professional basketball so be it. He has it in his blood – he has relatives that our football players."

Indeed, one can wonder why Braxton hasn't dedicated himself to the pigskin earlier in life. His uncle Mike Douglas played for the Packers. His three cousins all played college football, with one of them, Shaun Williams making it to the NFL and playing for the New York Giants. Nevertheless, Braxton felt that hoops was his true calling. "I started getting tall and really thin. I like football just as much as I like basketball. But I thought I would have a better chance at basketball."

"I talked to my family and coach Koetter said that it wouldn't hurt to come out and try spring ball," Braxton continued. "A lot of people have mentioned it to me before because the way I play basketball. I never really paid attention to it. This is the first time that Coach K has talked to me about it, once he talked to me about it I took it seriously."

The transition for Braxton could be less than smooth, but he's receiving full support from both his current and former teammates. "They have been real cool," he remarked. "I didn't know what to wear or the code to the locker room (smile). They helped me adjust my chin strap, and tell me all the tricks of the trade…R.J. Oliver told me some of the calls and the defense that they run, my footwork. I don't know anything (smile). I'm just an athlete they're trying to make into a cornerback." He added that former teammates Ike Diogu and Steve Moore were excited for him once they heard the news.

The first day was naturally an uneventful one for Braxton, in terms of what he did in practice. "He's a couple of days behind," Koetter commented. "We were in pads, but he was in shorts today. He didn't get too many reps. He did a lot of standing and watching. I hope he didn't get too frustrated. Because we have three corners out right now, he would get turns that he normally doesn't get. It won't be before next Monday (when he's in pads) until we can see what he can do. Let's give the guy a chance and see if he can get his football legs under him."

Monday is certainly a day that Braxton is looking forward to. It's more overwhelming than nervous," he said. "I'll be a little bit nervous but it goes away when you start playing. I know they hit hard, but I'll have to get up and keep on fighting." When asked jokingly if he will try and convince Jordan Hill to give up his #1 jersey (Braxton is currently wearing #15) so he can wear the same number he did for the basketball team he replied: "Right now I'm trying to make it. I'll worry about that stuff later. I'm trying to pick up stuff and see if I can be helpful to the team. The won last year, and have great players. Basically all I can do is see if I can make them better."

Braxton's athleticism has been quite evident during his maroon and gold tenure. He knows that some of his attributes can aid him in this sport change. "I'm just an athlete," he said. "I'm pretty fast, I can jump, I'm tall, I have long arms…but I have no skills or footwork for the cornerback position right now. That's why the rest of the coaches are gonna try to turn me from an athlete to a football player."

The running joke in football when it comes to describing cornerbacks is that they are simply wide receivers who can't catch the ball. Being that Braxton was a basketball player, why wouldn't he be considered playing wide receiver for ASU? "They have D-Hag (Derek Hagan)," he replied. "I can't even try to compete with him. I was watching him today, and he's really good. I want to cover him because that's the only way I'll get better."

It has been a whirlwind of a month for Jason Braxton. Less than three weeks ago he was honored at his last basketball game at Wells Fargo Arena. Back-to back losses in the Pac-10 and NIT tournaments, have cut his post-season aspirations short. Now, he suddenly has a chance to stay at ASU one more year and play a sport he seemed to always have a place ion his heart for. "It's weird," he said. "For a week after we were done playing I was focusing on playing overseas. I never thought about playing football. It's crazy how opportunities present themselves."

And if you thought Koetter was done searching for new football players at the school's basketball program, think again. "I'll go on record," he quipped, "and say that if Ike Diogu would like to give it a shot we'll have a spot for him also (smile)."

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