Two for one

Highlighted by Joe Thomas' and Paul Hubbard's impressive performances in the indoor season, four Badger football players are contributing to the men's track program

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Think the customary 9-to-5 work day is tough? Before complaining about work woes, try stepping into the shoes of a few Wisconsin student-athletes whose work day goes far beyond eight hours.


Take freshman Paul Hubbard's schedule for example. As a walk-on wide receiver on the Badger football team this season and one of the track team's best long jumpers and triple jumpers, Hubbard has his hands full.


"A typical day for me is going to my classes and then sometimes I have a receivers meeting on Tuesdays at 7 a.m. with my wide receivers coach," he said. "So I go to those and then I do my classes after that. Then I come here (to the Shell), go to the training room and get my treatment I need, then I go to track practice. Once track practice is over, some days like Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a team run with the football guys where we have to do a lot of speed drills and stuff and then after that I have to go and do my football lift. They usually do it in the morning and I don't have time in the morning. So I do it after track practice. It's crazy…after that I go back and do as much homework as I can before I go to sleep."


If that is not enough to get paid over-time, try the life of another two-sport freshman, Joe Thomas.


"On a typical day for me, I'd wake up anywhere from 5:30 to about 9, come out and the first thing I do is lift weights with the football team for about an hour, hour and 15 minutes," Thomas said. "Then we have about a half hour run with the football team. Then I go to class … there's usually three classes in a day. Then after I'm done with class I usually come over here (to the Shell), do a little warm up with the track team and then get out here and throw (the shot put) for about 45 minutes to an hour. Then I shower up and go to training table and then after that a long night of studying."


Though this daily grind may seem tiring, Hubbard, Thomas, junior Scott Starks and sophomore Levonne Rowan have all decided to make the most of their time by not only striving to excel on the football field, but also taking their strength to the track.


Even though all four are on the same teams, it is not often that all of them work together on the track. Hubbard and Thomas are busy focusing on their field events while Starks and Rowan concentrate on sprints. Somehow men's track head coach Ed Nuttycombe finds a way to bring it all together.


"Their schedules are different," Nuttycombe said. "All of four of them have slightly different schedules with football. What we do is we just try to work them in where we can. We are just glad to have them. Usually they are doing double-duty. So, we know that they are getting a lot of strength and conditioning with football so what we try to do is the technical stuff."


Before coming into his freshman year at UW, Thomas intended on doing both sports. He stated that being able to compete in track and field was one of his biggest concerns when he was making his college decision.


Thomas already established himself as a standout athlete during his time on the football field this past fall as an offensive lineman and defensive end. Now that he has stepped onto the track, he has continued to make a name for himself. Already this season, Thomas has won the shot put at the UNI-Dome Open and the Panther Classic. His personal best of 56' 4 ¾" ranks eighth in the Big Ten.


As for Hubbard, this track season will be his first time to shine. The Colorado Springs, Colo., native came to Wisconsin as the top-ranked prep triple jumper in the nation. At the moment he is on scholarship for track and decided to walk-on to the football team, where he redshirted last fall. Though he is able to practice with the football team, he is unable to participate in a game because of his track scholarship. After spring practice lets out, the football team will have to come to a consensus on what to do about Hubbard. If they give him a scholarship, he can continue to participate and play in football as well as track.


For the possibility that football does not issue him a scholarship, he has a number of options. One, is that he quits football altogether and keeps his track scholarship. He could also give up his track scholarship and participate in both sports without a scholarship. Or finally, he could continue to do what he is doing at the moment and just practice with the football team.


"They're leaning towards offering me a scholarship, they think I can do good things for them," Hubbard said. "If they don't offer me a scholarship I'll do the same thing I did this year basically, if my track team allows me to do that because they don't want me to go out there and you know, waste my time getting hurt or something. So we'll see what it comes down to."


"I know football is very excited about him," Nuttycombe said. "They see a lot of potential and a lot of athleticism and I think they are hoping to have a chance to spend a little more, give him a little more eye, and a little more time, which they can do with the younger players in the spring as opposed to the fall."

Starks has been practicing with the tack team once or twice a week during the indoor season, according to Nuttycombe, while also completing offseason workouts for football. He plans on competing in track during the outdoor season.

Rowan ran a 6.97 60-meter dash at the Panther Classic Feb. 7, but has not been practicing recently as a precautionary measure for what Nuttycombe described as a very minor injury. 

As the Big Ten Indoor Championships approach this weekend and the outdoor season is right around the corner, both Thomas and Hubbard have multiple expectations for themselves. Thomas hopes to receive All-Big Ten honors and throw 60 feet during the outdoor season. Hubbard also hopes to dominate in his events. His expectations are to take both the triple jump and long jump titles this weekend and hopefully qualify for Nationals in Arkansas March 12-13.


The UW men's track team is no stranger to utilizing football players for their strength and speed. Next year the team will welcome a few more two-sport athletes including highly touted sprinter Antonio Freeman, from Wauwatosa West High School, and Woodbury, N.J. native Chris Pressley, one of the top preps in the shot put.


While Nuttycombe has a solid track and field team, he knows that the football players bring immense amounts of strength and speed to his squad. Ultimately, he is pleased to know that they are willing to dedicate their time and energy to the track as well as the pigskin.


"The thing that separates the ones that actually do the track when they get here versus football and not track…is they really have to want to do it," Nuttycombe said. "They have got to want to make a little extra effort to do it. And those who do—the Tony Simmons, the Michael Bennetts, these guys that we're talking about now—they have a lot of fun and they just like competing."


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