I owned a pair of Bo Jackson Nike cross-trainers when they came out, blissfully unaware that when worn by a non-athlete they make the wearer look like less like a champion than a complete dork with orange shoes. (This was before the rules for acceptable tastefulness in everyday footwear were re-written by Crocs.) But I thought they were cool, and even cooler was the notion that a star like Bo could excel in several different sports to become the ultimate competitor.
Ohio State's James Laurinaitis won the Butkus Award last season as the nation's top linebacker, but decide against leaving early for the NFL to return to the team for his senior season. He was also a hell of a hockey player growing up in Hamel, Minnesota; a star defenseman and senior captain for Wayzata High School whom some scouts said could have been as high as a second-round pick in the NHL Draft.
In a conversation with College Football News, Laurinaitis explained how playing hockey helped make him a dominant defensive player on the gridiron:
CFN: I've always loved hockey and know all too well how much toughness and skill and balance goes into playing the game, especially at the Minnesota high school level. How did playing help you on the football field?
JL: Hockey helped me a lot with the muscle development that you wouldn't normally have. There's a different set of skills and muscles you need to use to play, but more than anything else hockey taught me about angles. You're moving really fast and you're moving really fast all the time. You have all these little guys who are cruising around trying to get around you, and that has helped me on the field when it comes to trying to chase down little running backs and receivers. Hockey showed me how to get to those guys quicker and at the right angle. Football players have no idea how hard it is to play hockey. They have no idea how hard it is to skate, and stick handle and the balance involved. You learn how to play with your head up at all times and to see everything around you.
There you have it: Strap on the skates if you want to be a better football player. Of course, in Laurinaitis's case, we're sure having Road Warrior Animal as your father doesn't hurt, either.
So here are the questions: Which college or NFL players have what it takes to excel at hockey? And which NHL players, past or present, would make excellent football players?
Because I'm thinking Scott Stevens could have been one hell of a middle linebacker.