Adoree' Jackson represents the latest in a long line of outstanding multi-sport athletes at USC. Since beginning his freshman year last fall, Jackson has played for both the Trojan Football team as well as the Track and Field program. But simply being on the roster isn't enough for him. Jackson has been a break out star on both teams. Earlier this month, at the NCAA Championships, Jackson helped bring the Trojan's Track and Field team to a fourth place finish in the 4x100 relay while also helping set a school record for fastest time. Earlier in the year, Jackson was singled out as an exceptional three-way player; catching the eye of NFL.com and making their most versatile athletes list at number one.
Jackson can easily count himself in excellent company, following in the footsteps of Trojan alumni Jack Del Rio and Rodney Peete. Both Peete and Del Rio played the same combination of football and baseball during their time at USC. Both even went on to have long careers in the NFL, Peete with 16 seasons and Del Rio with 11. Peete then went on to a career in broadcasting, while Del Rio is the current head coach for the Oakland Raiders.
Then there are Jackson's contemporaries, who show their different abilities in a variety of combinations, including those that are not quite as well known. Recent USC alumna Kaleigh Gilchrist played for the school's water polo team, helping to lead them to an NCAA championship in 2013. With aspirations set on the 2016 Olympics and the US Women's Water Polo team, Gilchrist is also an accomplished surfer and participated in various competitions throughout high school and college.
Multi-sport athleticism has become a bit of a hotbed issue in recent years. With an increased focus on early specialization, especially in football, there's been a noticeable drop off in NCAA athletes that play more than one sport throughout the year. This recent development can be attributed to many different factors, with the lead one most likely being a question of commitment. As said by late USC football coach Larry Smith in this 1988 LA Times feature, "In most cases, athletes have to play one sport year-round to be successful," and "if they play football in the fall, I want them at spring practice too."
It is unsurprising and even understandable that coaches at top-level NCAA programs would want to see full and unquestionable commitment from their players. However, this creates a bit of a contradiction. Yahoo Sports looked into some of this year's NFL draft statistics, and found that 88% of draftees played multiple sports in high school.
And then you have Pete Carroll during his tenure as USC head coach giving this interview, where he lauds the importance of the multi-sport athlete and says that "I want the guys that are so special athletically, and so competitive, that they can compete in more than one sport."
It's unclear exactly how this issue will play out in the years to come. Differences of opinion abound, even within the same program. However, one thing is crystal clear - none of this debate is slowing down an athlete like Adoree' Jackson.