Five current and former NFL players are vying for spots in the Olympics this year—Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner, former San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne, former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best, and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Jeff Demps.
If any of the five make it to Rio, they will be making sports history—no athlete has first played in the NFL and then made it to the Summer Olympics. Dallas Cowboys great Bob Hayes went from being a gold medal-winning track star to a Hall of Fame wide receiver, while running back Herschel Walker participated in the 1992 Winter Olympics in bobsledding as an active NFL player.
Take a scroll through the gallery to see who's vying for a place at Rio.
Jahvid Best, Track
The former Detroit Lions running back is looking to trade in his football cleats for some running spikes at the Rio Games. Best was one of the fastest players in the NFL during his career—he posted a blazing 4.35-second 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine—but injuries limited him to just 21 games over two seasons from 2010-2011. The California Golden Bears product won multiple sprinting titles while competing in high school, and now he hopes to represent St. Lucia, where his father was born. Best was named to the Olympic squad for Rio.
Rugby is making a historic comeback after a nearly 100-year absence for the Rio Olympics and Ebner could be part of it if he makes the United States squad. The 27-year-old safety took a leave of absence from the New England Patriots this year in the hopes of competing in Brazil. The Ohio State Buckeyes product has played rugby for quite some time—he was the youngest player to ever play for the national rugby sevens team as a 17-year-old, and he won MVP at the Junior World Championship in 2007 and 2008. The sixth-round draft pick helped the Pats win Super Bowl XLIX while ranking second on the team in tackles during the game and now he could be tackling on an international stage with Team USA. Ebner was named to the Olympic team for Rio.
The Buffalo Bills wide receiver knows what it means to represent his country at the Summer Games—he was previously part of the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics. Goodwin placed 10th in London in the long jump competition before being drafted into the NFL in 2013. It's no wonder: a two-time NCAA champion in the long jump, the wideout posted the third-fastest 40-yard dash time in NFL scouting combine history. The former Texas Longhorns wide receiver won a silver medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games and posted a career-best jump of 8.45m/27-08.75 feet at the the Meeting Region Guadeloupe in May. Goodwin did not qualify for Rio at the U.S. Olympic trials.
Hayne made headlines around the world when he made the move from professional rugby to the NFL, signing with the San Francisco 49ers in 2015. The 6’2”, 220-pound athletic marvel appeared in eight games for the Niners, playing at running back, kick returner, and on special teams. But with the possibility of participating in the Olympics on the horizon (plus the daunting task of learning new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly’s ridiculously complex playbook), Hayne returned from the NFL and joined up with the Fiji national rugby sevens team—the Australian-born Hayne has Fijian roots through his father. Hayne announced that he didn't make the Fiji rugby squad for Rio.
Demps is no stranger to Olympics competition—he helped the United States win a silver medal in the 4×100 at the 2012 London Games—and now he will try to make the track team again. The former New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back was a track star while playing football for the Florida Gators in college, winning multiple indoor and outdoor track titles, including the 100-meter and 60-meter events. Demps remains the only Gator athlete to win national championships in two different sports. Demps did not qualify for Rio after being eliminated in the first round of the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials.