Four Trojans Try out Track, Too

D.J. Morgan, Nickell Robey, Tony Burnett and Marqise Lee will all try their hand at a second sport at the college level as the track season kicks off.

Rest is a crucial element to any sport. One needs the time to recover from injuries, to sleep and to avoid a playbook.

But getting too comfortable might lead to a letdown. Rust or cobwebs could emerge. Or worst, poor performance.

Staying sharp and in shape is key for an elite athlete during their offseason, which is why four USC football players who need to maintain their speed are competing in track and field this year.

"I feel like it keeps me in shape because I honestly probably wouldn't run as much," cornerback and long jumper Tony Burnett said. "I'd take more days off."

As many of their teammates recuperate from the grind of the college football season, Burnett, D.J. Morgan, Marqise Lee and Nickell Robey are taking their current season very seriously.

"I'm taking it serious. I'm trying to get faster and I'm not trying to go out here and just play around and jog around. Since I'm not in football I have to take track seriously like I do football," Morgan said.

Morgan attempted both sports last year, too, but said a hamstring injury kept him from competing in track at the level he would have wanted.

During the football season, freshman Marqise Lee mentioned joining USC's basketball team. Reporters rejoiced at the possibilities.

But a lot of athletes ponder dual sports in college while few actually sign up. By the time the individual gets to campus or his main sport wraps up, those thoughts usually pass.

It didn't for a few stars. Playing two sports in college came easy for a couple notable athletes.

Another Trojan, O.J. Simpson, was a star in both track and football. Quarterback Donovan McNabb walked onto a Syracuse basketball team that went to the Final Four. And Deion Sanders was just ridiculous at every sport he attempted -- football, baseball and track at Florida State.

For these four Trojans, it will undoubtedly be a challenge to perform in track at as high a level. But one they hope will reap rewards in many ways.

"I feel like it helps me and then I roll right into the spring, not gaining too much weight and keeping me light on my feet," Burnett said.

"Just getting your body in running shape, you're squeezing your core so it helps you on the field as well," Morgan said. "In football you're squeezing your body trying to stay compact, so it translates over to the field. So power and speed basically [improves]."

Robey, Lee and Burnett all compete in the long jump and Morgan in the hurdlers. Morgan won the 2009 California state 110-meter high hurdles title.

As a freshman, Lee proved his athleticism in the football season. He didn't need to take on another challenge, but his teammates believe it can only make him better.

"As far as him going to the next level, they'll see he's doing so much more. He's a pure athlete," Burnett said of Lee. "If he catches for 1,500 yards and then comes out on the track and plays at nationals in the long jump, he leaves a much bigger impact on the university."

Along with the long jump, Lee will also compete in sprints. As a senior at Serra High School, he boasted career bests of 10.74 seconds in the 100 meter and 22.11 in the 200 meter event.

The track team practices every day Monday through Friday, with lighter training on Wednesday and Thursday. Aside from lifting --the football players lift heavier than their track teammates -- the majority of preparation is the same amongst the entire team.

To Burnett, who has one more season of track and two more of football, competing in two sports is an easy decision.

"Why not help the university? At the end of the day we're all still USC, no matter what team we're on," he said. "If we can win championships in football and on the track and just completely dominate, there's nothing better than that."

Their first track meet will take place on Feb. 25 in Claremont, Calif. with the only home meet of the season coming on March 23 and 24.

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