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White lightning

Michigan-bound rusher is comfortable in his own skin

Posted: Friday February 22, 2008 12:54PM; Updated: Friday February 22, 2008 4:02PM
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Sam McGuffie
Explosive RB Sam McGuffie is one of the most impressive overall athletes in the recruiting Class of 2008.
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Two middle-schoolers stood in a backyard in Cypress, Texas, five years ago. Chris Lathrop and his family had recently moved to town, and Lathrop had invited one of his new friends to the house. The kid couldn't stop staring at the Lathrops' jungle gym. Finally, the kid moved. The little bundle of fast-twitch fibers sprinted toward a support post that ran from the jungle gym into the ground. He ran up the post, flipped backward and landed on his feet.

"That's when I knew he was a freak," Lathrop said.

The world beyond suburban Houston wouldn't discover the freakishness of Sam McGuffie until four years later, when "The Hurdle" hit YouTube. If you aren't one of the millions who have already watched The Hurdle, check it out here. We'll wait, because you'll probably want to watch it more than once.

You probably had three questions after watching McGuffie, then a junior at Cy-Fair High, leap over a helpless Cy-Creek defensive back and coast to the end zone.

Question No. 1: Did he really do that?
Question No. 2: Where is that guy playing college ball?
Question No. 3: That was a white boy?

McGuffie has dealt with those questions since that 20-yard touchdown -- one of eight touchdowns he scored during that 2006 game -- made him the YouTube legend of the recruiting Class of 2008. McGuffie -- whose expanded exploits can be seen in this "McGuffie Mixtape" -- inherited the title from Noel Devine, whose jaw-dropping highlight video made him famous long before he ever carried the ball at West Virginia. Despite all the times McGuffie heard those three questions before the moment he emerged from a prolonged seclusion on National Signing Day to send his Letter of Intent to Michigan, the first was the easiest to answer.

"Everybody talks about the hurdle, the hurdle, the hurdle," McGuffie said. "I don't know what I'm supposed to say. I hurdled the dude, and that's about it. I don't have a mindset to hurdle somebody. I just jumped over him because on that play, you didn't feel like going right or left."

Building a back

McGuffie will explain the answers to the second and third questions soon enough, but first, it's important to understand how he evolved into a 6-foot, 190-pound streak of lightning who can bench press 355 pounds, tightrope the sideline and flip over 6-7, blue-chip offensive linemen without dropping the football. His genes help. When coach John Basel met a young McGuffie in the late '90s, Basel knew just by watching McGuffie run that he'd stumbled upon a superior athlete. Basel also noticed something else.

"He could walk on his hands from day one," Basel said.

Basel isn't a football coach. He has owned Basel's All-Star Gymnastics and Cheer Academy in Spring, Texas, since 1992. McGuffie honed his handstands, flips and tumbling in Basel's beginning boys' gymnastics program for a short time before McGuffie's family moved to Cypress. Basel believes if McGuffie had stuck with gymnastics, he might have made a college team. That said, Basel isn't heartbroken McGuffie took the strength and agility he learned in gymnastics to the gridiron.

"I'm glad he's doing football. He could end up making some money at football," Basel said. "You just don't make any money at gymnastics, so I'm kind of happy for him."

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