Gatlin gets tryout

University of Tennessee football fans spent years hoping world-class sprinter Justin Gatlin would give the gridiron a try. Now they're getting their wish ... but it's too late for him to help the Vol program.

Gatlin, who won the the 100-meter dash at the 2004 Athens Olympics with a world record-tying 9.77-second clocking, is getting a tryout with the National Football League's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If he shows suitable promise, he'll be signed to a contract and brought back for their next mini-camp.

Gatlin is the latest sprinter hoping to emulate Bob Hayes, who made the transition from track to football and enjoyed a terrific career as a wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s.

Gatlin's speed makes him an enticing option as a wideout, assuming he can learn to catch the ball adequately. That was the drawback for University of Tennessee predecessor Sam Graddy. Like Hayes and Gatlin, Graddy was a world-class sprinter who decided to give football a try. Graddy made the Vol squad as a receiver in the mid-1980s but couldn't catch a cold. Even so, he was signed by the Oakland Raiders in 1987 and spent six nondescript years on NFL rosters (two with the Denver Broncos, four with the Raiders).

Gatlin is currently under suspension from track because of a failed drug test roughly one year ago. He is appealing the suspension, which could last up to eight years.

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