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Former Giant David Wilson to make his professional track & field debut

David Wilson of the New York Giants speaks

David Wilson of the New York Giants speaks to the media following conditioning drills at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on July 21, 2013 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Mike Stobe

David Wilson said being forced to retire from football was like getting dumped by the girl of his dreams.

"It's different if you didn't really want her anymore and you found somebody else and you broke up with her," he said. "If she broke up with you, you're going to think about that a little bit, about what could have been."

Wilson said he misses football "every day," but he's also moved on to a new passion.

The former Giants running back and first-round pick will make his professional track debut Saturday at the adidas New York City Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium. He'll compete in the triple jump -- he was a two-time national champion in high school and an All-American at Virginia Tech, but he has not performed in competition since 2011.

The event is the last chance to qualify for the national championships, which is just one of the reasons he is participating despite a right hamstring strain that had slowed his training. The other reason? New York.

"That's perfect because I played for the New York Giants," Wilson said. "This meet is to get my feet wet and start my pro career in New York, where one of my pro careers ended."

Wilson played only about one-and-a-half seasons for the Giants before he was sidelined with spinal stenosis in October 2013. He had surgery and attempted a comeback with the Giants in last summer's training camp, but after he suffered a stinger in practice doctors recommended he stop playing football or risk further, permanent injury.

It wasn't long after that Wilson was on the phone with Johnny Shelton, the team chaplain for the Ravens whom he had met at Virginia Tech.

"He said, 'You know what you have to do, right?' " Wilson said. "I said, 'What?' He said, 'The Olympics.' "

Wilson had told Shelton as a freshman at Virginia Tech that he wanted to play pro football and then jump in the Olympics.

"And now, here I am," Wilson said. "Trying to make it."

He's eyeing the 2016 team that will compete in Brazil, and doing so with the same confidence that allowed him to predict a Hall of Fame football career when he was a rookie.

"When I go to Rio," he said matter-of-factly, "I'm coming back with some merchandise."

First, he has to get on the team. And that's no sure thing. His longest career jump is 16.2 meters (just over 53 feet), and he'll likely have to top that to qualify for this year's nationals. He has a goal of 55 feet, which he promised for his father for Father's Day.

Wilson has also benefited from concentrating on track and field for the first time in his life. In high school and college he was a football player who showed up for meets and "muscled" his way past the other jumpers. Now he's working on his form, training with 2012 silver medalist Will Clay.

There is still a lot of work to do on his technique, Wilson admitted, "but all that matters is the tape measure."

And if that tape says he qualifies Saturday, Wilson said he plans to celebrate in a way very familiar to Giants fans: the same back flip he used to perform in NFL end zones. "I may do it anyway," he said.

New York Sports