Holliday, Garvin and Demps making runs at the U.S. Olympic team
LSU tailback Trindon Holliday looks to best his personal record of 10.02 in the 100
FSU corner Michael Ray Garvin and Florida's Jeffrey Demps will also run the 100
Because of his build, Holliday's mother did not allow him to play pee-wee football
His path to the U.S. Olympics trials in Eugene, Ore., was not paved.
In the front yard outside his paternal grandmother's house, Trindon Holliday, a 5-foot-5, 160-pound water bug who doubles as an LSU football star and world-class sprinter, dashed past neighborhood challengers as a youth. There on Plank Road in rural Zachary, La. -- a town of 2,000 residents in Baton Rouge's east parish -- the wide receiver and kick returner began to grow, sort of. "He's so muscular yet so short," says Jesse LeBlanc, who was Holliday's principal at Northeast High. "It's like he's one muscle."
In high school, he continued to distance himself from his peers. The three-time all-state tailback and return man, whom LSU coach Les Miles describes as "tough as rocks", trained on Baker High's cinder track, dusting competitors his freshman year. After transferring to Northeast he won state titles in the 100 and 200. In 2005, he was the nation's top-ranked sprinter in the 60-meter dash and posted a 6.64, the fourth fastest by a high school runner, to win the event at the Nike Indoor National Championship. "Some coaches add an inch or a few pounds to their recruits' weights," says David Masterson, Holliday's high school football coach, who watched Holliday run a 4.28 in front of former LSU coaches Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher in high tops without starting in a track stance. "I added time to his 40 because I knew coaches wouldn't believe it."
To be a track star was not enough. As a youth, because of his bite-sized build, his mother did not allow him to play pee-wee football. Finally yielding once he was in the seventh grade, he took to the gridiron. By the time he was a junior at Northeast, he scored 26 touchdowns. His senior year he scored 34 and rushed for 2,210 yards rushing on 193 carries. Holliday informed recruiters that he would play football and run track, not giving up one for the other. "Some guys are fast in track and some guys who double are football guys," Miles says. "Trindon is truly one with track ability but football mentality."
Holliday, who only had football scholarship offers from LSU, Southern and Southern Mississippi and received a rejection letter from Duke, is not the first Division I football player to double in track and football, but he is currently the fastest. Joining Holliday, whose personal best is a 10.02, in the 100 meter preliminary heats at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., this weekend will be Florida State cornerback Michael Ray Garvin (5-8, 183) and incoming Florida tailback Jeffrey Demps (5-9, 176) from South Glades (Groveland, Fla.). Demps, 17, recently ran a wind-aided 10.03 in the 100 at the National Training Center All-Comers Open meet in Clermont, Fla. His legal best is 10.17, run at the Florida Relays in April, igniting Gator chomps in the stands while his future teammates endured spring practice. Garvin, who runs three events, boasts personal bests of 10.21 in the 100, 20.5 in the 200 and a 46.51 in the 400. "If I had Trindon's start I could be Trindon," says Garvin, who holds a Seminoles record for kicks returned (35) and kick return yards (697) in a single season.
On scholarship for football, the trio exchanges their cleats and turf shoes for spikes following January's bowl season. Typically they take two weeks in between football and winter track, but if they were to qualify for the Olympic team, football would take a backseat to the games in Beijing. This spring, Holliday, who ran his first full load of meets this winter and spring, and Garvin were excused from spring football workouts, providing them the opportunity to focus on pursuing positions on the Olympic team. Their football responsibilities were limited to team meetings and organizational matters. Garvin, who started eight games last season, stepped in for footwork drills with helmets on and no pads occasionally, sidestepping mat drills. "Coach [Urban] Meyer has been fully supportive of that possibility," says Demps.
For LSU, Holliday will not be the only athlete representing the two-sport ideal. Xavier "X-Man" Carter, who played football and ran track for two years in Baton Rouge before turning pro in track, will run the 200 meters. Though out of football for two years, Carter, who trains at Florida in Gainesville under Gators coach Mike Holloway, fields more questions related to football than track by fans. "They know I'm a track guy," Carter says. "But all they want to talk is football here. I know I can go back to football when track is done."
Possessed with speed and considered by Miles as "easily" the fastest football player he has ever seen, Holliday, like Garvin, has been at his best in the kick return game. As a true freshman, Holliday broke onto the national scene with a 92-yard touchdown return against Arkansas. In a more inventive fashion last year, he played the crouching Bayou Bengal position, bending down behind the right tackle and taking a handoff from quarterback Matt Flynn on a trick play that went for 11 yards. "He has a pretty good understanding of the receiver and tailback positions," says Miles, who is aware that Holliday would most likely not be ready for the Aug. 31 opener with Appalachian State if he participates in the Olympics. "It depends on when he gets back to determine how football will utilize him this year. I'm not worried about him being out of shape."
Though Holliday has never hidden behind starting blocks in a race, he will join Garvin and Demps in the track spotlight on Saturday afternoon. LSU track coach Dennis Shaver, who remembers first eyeing Holliday as a freshman in high school dominating the Louisiana state meet, believes if the weather allows it, Holliday can run a new personal best. Back home in Zachary, Masterson says word will spread quickly. "After winning the football national title, Trindon was in my classroom within a week, smiling," Masterson says. "No matter how he does, he'll always be our little midget."